Review: IFC Midnight’s ‘Hunter Hunter’ is one of the most intense films of 2020.

HUNTER HUNTER

HUNTER HUNTER follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) struggle to make ends meet and think their traps are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf. Determined to catch the predator in the act, Joseph leaves his family behind to track the wolf. Anne and Renée grow increasingly anxious during Joseph’s prolonged absence and struggle to survive without him.  When they hear a strange noise outside their cabin, Anne hopes it is Joseph but instead finds a man named Lou (Nick Stahl), who has been severely injured and left for dead. The longer Lou stays and Joseph is away, the more paranoid Anne becomes, and the idea of a mysterious predator in the woods slowly becomes a threat much closer to home.

The contentious relationship between Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan is what makes the initial framework of this film so intriguing. With Anne longing for more traditional stability for her family, Joe thrives in the wilderness. Trapping is just not meeting their monetary needs any longer. With their daughter Renee to protect, they are in for a bigger surprise than running out of food and a rogue wolf on the prowl. Hunter Hunter goes to a place so dark, you won’t be able to get it out of your head.

The survivalist and tracker methods ring true. Sawa, who has been churning out films the past few years, once again holds the audience captive with his presence. I’ve stated before that his talent is often overlooked. His commitment to a role is stellar and he’s a lovely human in real life. Here his portrayal of Joe is steadfast and loyal, with a side of heroic intention. His chemistry with Summer H. Howell as daughter Renee is a touch reminiscent of Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Howell gives a “raised off the grid”, tough as nails, but thoroughly innocent age-appropriate performance. It’s just right. Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in one movie together, have made my schoolgirl fantasies a reality… in the most satisfying, genre nerd girl way. Stahl is downright scary. You can read the unspoken backstory he’s given himself in his posture and gaze. It’s startling.

Camille Sullivan has been written as a fully nuanced woman, forced to activate her Mother Bear instincts. The power she brings to this film is unmatched. This cast has to not only contend with a terrifying script but the elements of filming in the wilderness. I have so many questions since the credits rolled but the mystery that remains isn’t even relevant when the screen goes black. You are simply left in shock.

That sharp turn in the plot blows up everything you think you know about how this story will end. Your heart will be in your throat for the final 3rd. Writer/director Shawn Linden has given us one of the most disturbing films of 2020. The utter carnage, both emotional and physical, inflicted on this cast is brutal. The visceral horror of that befalls the viewer is skin-crawling and nausea-inducing. Hunter Hunter is complex and precisely crafted. Camille Sullivan‘s performance will go down as one of the most iconic final girls, ever.

STARRING:

Devon Sawa – Nick Stahl – Camille Sullivan – Summer Howell

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY:

Shawn Linden

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND – DECEMBER 18, 2020

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.