Combustible Celluloid
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With: Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Devon Sawa, Nick Stahl, Gabriel Daniels, Lauren Cochrane
Written by: Shawn Linden
Directed by: Shawn Linden
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 93
Date: 12/18/2020

Hunter Hunter (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tone Wolf

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Undeniably well-made and brutally effective, the gory thriller Hunter Hunter soon becomes sour and ugly due to its ruthless depiction of violence toward animals, and with its ultimate lack of a real point or theme.

Mersault (Devon Sawa) and his partner Anne (Camille Sullivan) and their 12 year-old daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) live off the grid in Manitoba, hunting and selling furs to survive. It's 1990, and Mersault becomes worried when he finds the remains of a raccoon in one of his traps; something tore it out and ate it.

He goes hunting for what he thinks is the culprit, a killer wolf. He finds a campsite full of dead bodies, and more gory remains in traps. Meanwhile, Anne and Renee try to defend their home against wolf attacks, while their food supply runs low. Then, a wounded stranger (Nick Stahl) appears.

To start, Hunter Hunter is neatly constructed to build dark tension, using sound design and an unknown lurking in the woods that could be anywhere, at any time. Certain elements are kept deliberately off-camera to increase the sense of uncertainty, and the various plot turns are a step above the run-of-the-mill. The title indicates its attempted theme, that the hunter becomes the hunted, while the story's final half-hour offers a few more twists on this old chestnut.

But it really boils down to revenge, and the movie has little to say about the subject other than that it happens. It likewise has very little to say about why the story might be set in 1990, or what it means to "live off the grid." It might be a story about man's folly, about how man might unwisely consider himself to be smarter than nature, but once that point is made, Hunter Hunter goes on for a while longer.

But the final nail in the coffin is the constant depiction of animal-killing, plus dead, dying, or mutilated animals. This may not bother everyone, but the movie's cruelty also extends to humans. It's a lot to ask.

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