Directed by Vincent Paronnaud
Written by Vincent Paronnaud and Léa Pernollet
Starring Lucie Debay, Ciaran O’Brien, Arieh Worthalter
It might seem strange for director Vincent Paronnaud to transition from the Oscar nominated bandes dessinées coming of age animated film Persepolis to a visceral chase movie inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, but they both have something in common. Both stories are ultimately about finding yourself and overcoming adversity even when you’re up against incredible odds. With Hunted, premiering at Fantasia International Film Fest over the weekend, Paronnaud and his two leads, Lucie Debby and Arieh Worthalter, use the source material as a springboard to highlight the primal urges we all still have lurking under the surface.
Known only as Eve (Debby), a struggling underling in the real estate world escapes the days stress to go to a local dance club to have a drink and gather her thoughts. Of course, she’s immediately hit on but another Man (Worthalter) comes to her aid. Instead of blowing him off too, Eve takes the plunge and, to her regret, winds up kidnapped in a trunk while Man and his puny accomplice film the whole bloody affair. She escapes into the woods, but they both follow with their out-of-date camcorder in hand. It’s so much creepier watching this predator admiring grainy footage of previous victims on such an antiquated recorder, mainly because when it’s pointed at YOU it feels so much more invasive than an iPhone. Luckily, Eve still has the choice of starring in his movie or making up her own revenge ending.
Framing the story with an animated tale of folklore showing the power of the wolf as a protector of sorts, Hunted creates its own loose mythos taken from the 17th century fairy tale and doesn’t look back. The hot pursuit within a seemingly never-ending forest comes to blows in moments of blinding violence, but there is always a sense that the wilderness and its inhabitants are on the right side of the fight. From a quiet moment that Eve has with a doe to a mysterious black crow keeping tabs from above, it always seems like it’s only a matter of time before the tables are turned.
Arieh Worthalter as the Man is full tilt here, giving an unhinged performance that almost makes him fun to watch even though he’s the living embodiment of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Deceptive to his core, it’s only when he tries to match wits with an outdoorsman known simply as Huntress where his facade shatters, quickly bringing on the wrath inside him. Eve undergoes a transformation, herself, and right when she becomes a true survivalist and embraces nature, she’s suddenly hurled back into civilization in the final, heavyweight climax.
Hunted doesn’t follow the Red Riding tale enough to be included with Reese Witherspoon and Keifer Sutherland in Freeway or Neil Jordan’s twist on the legend The Company of Wolves. In Paronnaud’s first solo feature, he chooses mayhem over magic focusing more on the thin layer that exists between the civilized and the rabid and how dangerously close we are at times if we come right up against that rift. This campfire story proves that the realm of men hasn’t really achieved the control construct it so smugly assumes is still in place. And when the monster in Hunted finally reverts back to a scared little sheep, Mother Nature is right there to give him the beating of his life without even blinking an eye.
Framing the story with an animated tale of folklore showing the power of the wolf as a protector of sorts, Hunted creates its own loose mythos taken from the 17th century fairy tale and doesn’t look back.