Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Hunters and a Human Game Preserve: A Movie Review

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*here be some spoilers.

Director: Chris Briant.

Writer: Michael Lehman.

Cast: Steven Waddington, Tony Becker, Terence Knox and Dianna Agron.

It is a little strange to see actors Tony Becker and Terence Knox reunited after twenty years from their "Tour of Duty" days. They are on the same side again in this European shot thriller. Set in Luxembourg, The Hunters is one of the more unpredictable thrillers to be seen by this reviewer in quite sometime. The use of surreal intercutting shows Briant's strong understanding for showing character's emotions externally and this feature is a must see for thriller fans.

The story begins with Det. Le Saint (Chris Briant). His name is not just a title as Le Saint tries to find the source of several disappearances. His investigation leads him to Fort Goben, a human gaming preserve. Once you are in Goben there is no easy road home. Le Saint figures this out quickly when he is faced with one psychopath after another. A simmering love story makes its way into the narrative here or there to balance out the testosterone fueled action scenes. The result is a very compelling film.

As background, Le Saint is an Iraqi veteran who is suffering from some post-traumatic stress disorder. He remembers an attack and wounding over and over again. Sometimes his past trips him up, but mostly it allows him to to survive in the most difficult of situations. Oliver played by Tony Becker is the most sympathetic of the the hunters. His dreary working days and home life lead him to seek out something very illegal and even more dangerous. Oliver's bumbling sidekick David (Philip Correia) is more of a liability as he shows signs of schizophrenia. Or maybe those voices in his head are coming from the haunted fort. Bernard (Knox) rounds out the large cast of villains and Le Saint has a lot of evil to deal with. Alice played by Dianna Agron is introduced on the periphery and this flat character is not developed fully as noticed by Horror Talk (Harley): "love interest Alice remains underdeveloped in a film full of macho men." She is more mystery than multi-layered.

One of the great appeals of European cinema is the use of impressionism to show emotions in art like film. Briant, in his first film, shows you David's schizophrenia by introducing images of this character screaming in strange orange hues. These short scenes show his instability. Flashbacks are used to show Le Saint's difficulties when faced with violence. As well, Briant introduces The Hunters as one style of film, a crime thriller and later he transitions the film, abruptly, into a horror feature. A trophy case of severed heads will act as a signal to the viewer that you are now entering terrifying territory. This use of differing genres is what really made this film unpredictable to this reviewer. This critic just did not know where the film was going in the first half; however, some plot developments can be theorized with certainty in the second part.

The Hunters is really an excellent little film with high production values. Released on DVD December 27th through Lionsgate, Europe continues to set the bar high in filmmaking. However, American actors are used in primary roles and this film seems like a hybrid between the commercialized Hollywood film and the more creative European one. Overall, this is an exciting film through and through. Hopefully, horror and thriller fans find a chance to watch this film as the release went under the radar. And this is one film gem that you are going to want to search out.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (good writing, good characters, a strong visual style, solid use of genres, great intercutting and use of impressionism).

*this film is also available on video-on-demand.

A second review of this film is available at Horror Talk (Joel Harley):

The Hunters Reviewed at Horror Talk

The Hunters' fan page:

The Hunters on Facebook

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