Screamfest 2013: THE HUNTED Review


Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: TBD
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 6.5/10

The conventions of the found footage genre are pretty well known by now.   You can only see what the camera sees which in turn is what the character sees.  Thanks to the Paranormal Activity franchise viewers have been put on guard; trained to look for things in the periphery of the frame.  If you hear menacing music or sounds than you know something is about to happen or is there?    Josh Stewart has crafted an affective found footage horror film that works the conventions but occasionally succumbs to the pitfalls inherent of the format.

In hopes of landing his own hunting reality show, Jake enlists the aid of his good friend Steve and together they head deep into the forest to track an elusive buck that is sure to make them famous.   Utilizing numerous hand-held, stationary and motion-sensor cameras they hope to capture and hunt the monster buck.   One evening they hear something in the woods, something unnerving, something hidden by the darkness that their lights cannot reveal. 

Right off the bat you know you’re in for something supernatural.  The title of the film appears as “The Hunted” but a video glitch changes it to “The Haunted.”   Thoughts of the aforementioned Paranormal films and The Blair Witch Project will no doubt come to mind when one hears that this takes place in the forest.   For anyone familiar with those franchises you have to wonder just what more can this film offer.    Stewart has based his film on true events, well about 95% of the film is based on his actual experiences while out with friends in the deep woods.   Inspired by a local legend he has written and directed a ghost story that has its fair share of jumps and creepiness.

The acting by Stewart who plays Jake and Gene Blevins who plays Steve is quite good.  They are pretty convincing as a pair of outdoor enthusiasts who are simply out there to make a big score.   However they do lose a little bit during the film’s finale.   They were much more convincing when they were being scared as opposed to being in survival mode.

The sound design by John Luker captures the forest very well from the howling wind, the cracking twigs and the eerie silence.  However, the overuse of the menacing low frequency sound or foreboding music cue, a technique associated with the Paranormal films, was getting a bit old after the first several uses.   It would have been better if they had left the viewer’s imagination to run wild as opposed to giving them a nudge; it certainly would have played more realistically.   After all it never establishes how we the audience are seeing this and who edited it together so why would there be music let alone low bass sounds.

Like the best supernatural found footage films it really exploits the viewer’s imagination.  The most terrifying thing is often what you can’t see even if it’s right before your very eyes.   Stewart uses that a lot in this film and it turns out to be one of the better found footage films of the last few years.   While the studio ending was fine it probably could have used something more subtle and more real to wrap things up.   Otherwise it’s an entertaining film that will deliver the jumps and have you saying “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the woods.”

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