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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, October 27, 2023

Night of the Hunted (2023)

I’m always on the lookout for the next creepy horror flick to get under my skin. When this popped up on Shudder and I saw that it was about a random sniper killing folks while taunting a woman I thought it sounded interested. I always cringe when someone says they are going to “update” an old trope, but this sounded like a creative take on it. So, I fired up my Shudder app and plopped myself down for a watch.

Alice is woken up in her hotel room by her phone going off. She has been at a convention with her work colleague John and is now headed back home. There is also talk from a friend on the phone about her seeing a fertility doctor as she and her husband are trying for a baby. As she and John are driving out of the Hotel parking lot we see that someone has poked a hole in the gas tank. This leads to them stopping at an isolated station in the early hours of the morning. Here is where things really get rolling.

Alice goes in for a cup of coffee while John fills the tank. She can’t find the clerk but does eventually notice a blood spray on the wall. This freaks her out and when she goes to leave takes a bullet to the arm. Freaked out she crawls back into the store. She hears someone on a walkie talkie and picks it up asking for help. After John comes in and is gunned down we find out that the guy on the other end is the sniper. Not only that he knows a lot about Alice, so you get the idea that this was all a setup. I mean someone punctured their gas tank and knew her secrets so… yeah there must be something else to this. The rest of the movie is him taunting her, shooting anyone else who stops by, and basically torturing her. Why? Is this a random wacko? Is someone targeting her? Is it because she was having an affair with John? I’m not asking these questions the sniper is as he taunts her.

Some slight spoilers are in the review so if you don’t like that sort of thing head to the last paragraph for my final thoughts on Night of the Hunted as well to see if I recommend it or not. Now onto the review. This is an interesting movie. First of all, I can assure you that we never really get the answers to the questions posed above which I’m okay with. I like the idea of a killer without identity and motivation. Sadly the movie sort of spoils that itself.

The first forty minutes are brutal and terrifying. The killer speaks only enough to get under Alice’s skin and make her terrified. The unexpected and undeserved violence is what drives the fear which the first half of the story uses to get and hold the audience’s attention. The setting of the isolated gas station by the highway in the middle of the night is one that I think we can all relate to which makes the story even scarier. When a horror flick puts the audience into a situation where they could legitimately find themselves it already has a leg up and the filmmakers us that brilliantly here.

Here is where the movie goes off the rails and sort of spoils things for me. The sniper keeps talking to her and eventually goes on an extended political rant about mandatory vaccinations, microchips, cancel culture and wokeness. It gets way too political as we go from scary horror movie to the filmmaker’s going on some personal rant. It really isn’t so much what his politics are but the fact that somehow the script is trying to explain to the audience his motivation for the killings. Sure, there seems to be something more to it and is sure as hell seems Alice is being targeted but we don’t need to know for sure. Think John Carpenter’s Halloween. The shape killed without motivation and was basically just evil walking the earth. That is way scarier. The more they tried to explain him the worse the sequels got. Same thing here.

I also felt that the killer talking about actual mass shootings was in poor taste. Using real world tragedies in dialogue or as fodder for your story makes me very uncomfortable and one should tread carefully when doing so. They weren’t disrespectful or anything like that but for what is effectively just a low budget horror movie it felt inappropriate. If you wanted to invoke that shared fear of mass shootings coming from someone you didn’t know then stick to what sniper saying just enough to taunt Alice and stop trying to explain things.

Alice really is having a rough night
The kills are long distance and lean more into us knowing what is coming before it actually happens rather than being overly gory. There is a gnarly bullet wound on Alice’s arm that she has to dump hand sanitizer on and then glue shut. That is right in your face and well done. Near the end of the movie, we also get a head squished which is again right in your face as the camera doesn’t pull away. Other than that, we see bullet hits and an occasional after the fact gnarly head wound. This isn’t the sort of movie that I would anticipate elaborate kills or gore so I was happy with what I got onscreen. It is just enough to add to the tension and overall horror of Alice and her situation. It works perfectly with the story.

The director of Night of the Hunted, Franck Khalfoun, has done some other movies that I personally think are way better than this one. P2, the Maniac remake, and even Amityville: The Awakening are all solid efforts. Here the script lets him down with the uneven pacing which occurs when it starts to focus on the killer talking. But I can’t let him off the hook since he cowrote the script.

In the end there are a lot to like here. My only issues are the pacing and oversharing by the killer that causes them. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Night of the Hunted but think it is probably still worth a watch.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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