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Hunter Hunter: An Intense Thriller That Hits Hard

January 13, 2021

Directed, produced, and written by Shawn Linden, Hunter Hunter is a wonderfully mean thriller that focuses on a family having a rough go of it in the Canadian wilderness. The micro-budgeted film distributed by IFC Midnight (who had an excellent 2020), deserves its 93% Tomatometer score, and placement on a plethora of 2020 “best of horror” lists. While many critics are applauding its bleak ending (which is excellent), it’s worth noting that Linden’s script does a fine job tightening the screws throughout, as likable characters find themselves careening towards each other for the lauded finale. 

Hunter Hunter focuses on a family living an antiquated life of fur trapping in the Canadian wilderness. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), is a grizzled late-thirtysomething who lives off the land and sells the furs of the various animals that he catches in his traps. He often takes his daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) with him on hunts, and his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) stays at their cabin, where she collects water, drives into the closest town for supplies, and maintains the house. Money is tight, as the furs don’t collect the money necessary to live, and with winter approaching, the family is considering getting a home closer to the town. Since it’s a thriller, things get dicey when a wolf starts eating the animals in the traps, and Joseph finds something grisly in the woods. What follows I don’t want to spoil, just know that it involves an injured stranger, a walkman, and bear traps. 

A lot of credit goes to Linden for ensuring that the film was loaded with believable authenticity, as the production design, costumes and performances feel lived-in and worn out. The budget never feels stretched, as he and his crew were able to let the Canadian wilderness speak for itself (it’s beautiful) while the family’s cabin is purposefully scarce, as they don’t need many belongings. The cinematography by Greg Nicod (who has worked as a first assistant cameraman on many projects) is solid, as he forgoes indie theatrics (there are no precious shots here) and embraces a meat-and-potato approach to the proceedings – which is a good thing. Also, the makeup effects are something to behold, and it’s no surprise, because Doug Morrow (Tales From the Loop, Channel Zero), Kristin Watts (Channel Zero), and Aaron Merke are all experienced makeup artists who’ve created some gnarly effects before. 

It’s nice seeing Devon Sawa and Nick Stahl back in a critically-lauded film, and their performances are believably gruff and menacing (They’ve been around for a long time. They know how to do it). However, the true star of the film is Camille Sullivan, who has to carry the heaviest scenes on her blood-covered shoulders, and she does so superbly. I have no clue how she was able to get into certain headspaces, but she really does an excellent job of capturing madness and determination.

If you are in the mood for a taute thriller that doesn’t take it easy on the viewer, it doesn’t get any better than Hunter Hunter.

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