Just stay out of the woods already! “The Hunted”

October 15, 2014

the-hunted-poster Why do people go into the woods? Does anything good ever happen there? On the evidence of cinema I’d have to say no, nothing good ever happens in the woods. I mean aside from ticks, mosquitos, rattlesnakes, a total lack of hygienic facilities and, I should add, absolutely nothing of interest, you also run the risk of contending with:

And, well, you get the point. There’s just no good reason to go into the woods. And Josh Stewart’s 2013 film The Hunted doesn’t give us one, either. The woods are just bad. Stewart’s film is basically a Blair Witch retread…yeah, just like Willow Creek, but there’s no Bigfoot in this one. It’s another found footage compilation in which two guys go into the woods and soon discover something is amiss. Then things escalate. Then there’s a poorly-filmed “shocking” ending. Fin. In the case of The Hunted, the woods-bait consist of two friends trying to make a hunting video in the hopes of starting their own line of outdoors videos which will hopefully bolster their flagging financial fortunes. Jake (Josh Stewart) is the face of the video, a bowhunter, angling to start the franchise off with a bang by taking down an exceptionally large buck nicknamed Movie Star. His buddy Stevie (Ronnie Gene Blevins) is the videographer, recently laid off from his job, who rigs their campsite and tree stand with cameras.

He seems like he'd be handy in a zombie-apocalypse.

He seems like he’d be handy in a zombie-apocalypse.

As is the case with these movies, we get a lot of weird nocturnal phenomenon, and no, I’m not talking about the Brokeback Mountain kind. Basically it’s a lot of weird noises and tent-shaking. Pretty soon, though, they start to hear what sounds like a woman screaming. Josh, the outdoorsman, chalks it up to a mountain lion, because the woods even has animals that mimic the sound of terror and death (it just hates you that much). Pretty soon things intensify. Equipment malfunctions, and sometimes seems to be recording something that isn’t there. Their blind is vandalized. The screaming intensifies. And—strangest thing—there aren’t any deer around. Josh is genuinely stumped by this latest development since they’re set up in the prime feeding ground.

Just a warning, scenes like this comprise, like, 90% of the movie.

Just a warning, scenes like this comprise, like, 90% of the movie.

Naturally, they’re warned off by some yay-hoo locals, and naturally they don’t listen. But the daughter of the local hunting lodge-owner knows of a disturbing story from years ago, about a woman who lived in those woods with her husband, until one day she killed him and herself. Could the woods be haunted? Or is Movie Star actually a massive, malevolent, killer-deer? Alas reader, Movie Star is not a man-eating deer. Man, I wish that was the case. That would be awesome.

Good. Use the truck to drive to a hotel.

Good. Use the truck to drive to a hotel.

I’ll try and preserve what little surprises are left in this film, but they’re pretty sparse and not very surprising. The reality is, this movie is a beat-for-beat rip off of The Blair Witch Project, right down to the denouement. The difference being, The Blair Witch Project had less interesting characters and a more interesting ending. The movie’s derivative nature is kind of a shame because Stewart’s direction and his and Blevins’ characters are actually quite good. Unlike most found footage movies, our protagonists this time around are people you actually enjoy spending time with. They’re both professionals trying to do their part of the project as best they can to make the thing work.

Seriously, dudes. A hotel. They probably have HBO.

Seriously, dudes. A hotel. They probably have HBO.

Some of the nighttime scares and screams are pretty effective, bit they get old quickly. Stewart’s bag of tricks is pretty shallow, and he exhausts his arsenal quickly. There’s also no real logic to way the movie plays out. At least in Blair Witch there was the sense that what befell those folks occurred because they went looking for the something terrible and they found it. In this movie two guys just want to make a hunting video and something supernatural just ups and goes all bitchcakes on them. So that’s The Hunted. There’s some talent at work here, but the story is just too predictable to really deliver any solid scares. Seriously, why go into the woods? You can’t even shower there.

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