Saturday, August 22, 2020

Fantasia '20: Hunted Pits Little Red Against the Big Bad Wolf: A Film Review

*full disclosure: online access to the film was provided by the fine folks of Fantasia.

Director: Vincent Paronnaud.

Writers: Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet.

Cast: Lucie Debay, Ciaran O'Brien, Arieh Worthalter.

This year's Fantasia Film Festival has kicked off as of August 20th. This event takes place in Montreal, Quebec every year, but is online only in the time of CV19. Several World Premieres are taking place at Fantasia including Vincent Paronnaud's (Asylum: Twisted Horror and Fantasy Tales) story of shock-and-awe, Hunted. In the film, one woman is chased by the Big Bad Wolf, in Paronnaud's rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood." But, in this film, the heroine has an enchanted forest to back her up and her own inner hunter. A child's tale is updated for adults as Hunted offers a few surprises along the way, including Little Red aka Eve (Lucie Debay) losing her mind, some place in Act II.

If you have read the story of "Little Red Riding Hood," you can skip re-reading some of the plot points here. But essentially, the protagonist (dressed in red) is stalked by two killers: one an incompetent buffoon and the other a woman-hating, violent videographer. One killer is not up to the task of catching Red, leaving behind only the Big Bad Wolf (Arieh Worthalter). Hungry for flesh, the Wolf chases Red through an enchanted forest as Granny's house lies off in the distance as a hunting camp or housing development; this reviewer is not sure which.

Red Becomes Unhinged at the Mid-point of the film.
Paronnaud likes to shoot creatures in strange situations, out in forested scenes. With much of Act II shot in a French or Flemish forest, there are lots of opportunities for the director to incorporate a sleeping deer (acting as a guardian to Red), or fireflies buzzing around at night - who also guide her. There is something mystical about writer Lea Pernollet's choice of scenery and the use of critters, to help the heroine. Once the film emerges from these surreal forested scenes, this fairy tale's violent finale is not far off.

There is little doubt the story here has been lifted from an older French tale, "Little Red Riding Hood." The early campfire story of wolves will give you a hint as to the direction of the film, while the appearance of black dogs and the heroine in all red will loudly announce what is in store for the viewer. Except the dangers of the forest, a theme from the original story, also include urban settings, like a brightly lit bar. The Wolf bears its teeth throughout the film, with only the Hunter absent from this version. But when Red turns the tables on the Wolf, she actually becomes the hunter, in her own crazy way. 

Finally, the writing team has devised a couple of surprises for viewers. In one scene, the Big Bad Wolf emerges with camouflage. The change in costume is affective. This scene is followed-up by another involving an improvised defibrillator. One character gets another surprising kick at the can. And, this is also another scene in which Parannaud includes an animal acting protectively - a raven. Not much later, the film appears to be winding down, when a paintball battle emerges out of nowhere, with smoke filling the scene. A paintball smashes one character in the face and this film fan has not laughed out loud this hard, while watching cinema, in a long time. Viewers are sure to enjoy some of the twists and turns that Paronnaud and Pernollet have prepared for them.

Hunted is currently only showing at Fantasia, with another screening set for August 26. Online tickets are only a few Canadian dollars and fans of film should give Hunted a look. This title retells a childhood favourite. Full of violent and surprising scenes, Hunted also offers surreal situations, during the forest sections, while offering a brutal climax in a more urban area. Hunted also has a few shocks in store for audiences, while  modernizing the "Little Red Riding Hood" tale. Canadian viewers should see Hunted while it is available at Fantasia as few will be disappointed by this tale of Red integrating her inner hunter.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

Hunted at Fantasia with ticket information: Hunted Details at Fantasia

Bushwick (2017) is another film that incorporates elements of "Little Red Riding Hood" in its story:

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