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Hunt, The (2007)
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by David Cornelius

"The Blair Witch goes Blue Collar."
2 stars

“The Hunt” was directed by Fritz Kiersch, who spent most of the 1980s making such movies as “Children of the Corn,” “Tuff Turf,” and, oh my, “Gor.” He’s a veteran of the industry. So why does his newest movie look like the result of a first-time filmmaker gathering his friends together to make a no-budget movie on a couple of weekends?

The film has all the sloppy, desperate gimmicks of a rookie project that figures a high concept - in this case, a cameras-in-the-woods mockumentary format obviously copied from “The Blair Witch Project” - is the only way to get noticed. We follow a hunter, his stepson, and a videographer as they journey into the woods in hopes of shooting a deer hunting video they can sell at Wal-Mart; first they discover a fence where a fence shouldn’t be - and it’s keeping something inside! - and then they discover they’re being hunted themselves. This footage is intercut with that of the search efforts of the boy’s father days later.

So we know from the start that the three are missing (or two, as one of them is found as the movie opens, but remains unidentified merely so the movie can take a weak stab at drawing out the suspense). This is supposed to add an undercurrent of tension to the first hour of the movie, in which nothing much of anything happens to the hunters, but surely the good stuff is coming soon, right? The quibble, they encounter another hunter, they get lost, they quibble some more. And all the while, we wait with growing impatience for something important to happen.

Kiersch, who also wrote the screenplay (from a story by Danny Martin and Jonathan de la Luz), kills time by providing us with the backstory: the hunter went to his wife’s ex to ask for investment money; the videographer grows paranoid after overhearing talk that he may not be trustworthy; the land being used for the hunt is privately owned, with prey being lured into the area (wink, wink). We get a couple minutes of the hunters getting lost, a couple minutes of the backstory, and a couple minutes of the searching father continuing his investigation, lather, rinse, repeat.

By doing this, the film offers no focus, no consistency to the point of view. Kiersch jumps between grainy video footage taken by the characters and crisp third-person footage taken by Kiersch’s crew. As such, we get much more information than the video footage alone would ever provide, diluting the mystery by giving us too much. Perhaps Kiersch just couldn’t commit to a full faux-documentary style, or perhaps he just wanted to include a couple “Blair Witch”-ian shots for cheap effect. A key shot late in the film, of a dazed character staring into the camera as it rests on the ground, is pure rip-off and not at all as effective as Kiersch thinks it is. (Let’s not even begin to question the logistics of 24 hours’ worth of usable footage being taken from one videotape.)

And when the action finally (finally!!) arrives, it turns out to be third-rate “Twilight Zone” wannabe junk, the sort of ending that implies that the entire story was written to be about this one scene, the sort of third act that pretty much has the writers look into the camera and yell, “See that? See what we did there? We made the hunters the hunted! Isn’t that clever of us?”

This is the sort of movie where you feel a little sorry for the cast, because they all do about as well as they can with the material. The performances are solid, yet they’re then stuck rehashing clichéd dialogue and running through go-nowhere confrontations. When the hunter fails to shoot a now-psychotic videographer, we actually get the speech about how the hunter is “so predictable.”

Which is about right. “The Hunt” steals all of its ideas from other stories, then reworks them into something that’s tedious and uninteresting. Kiersch pulls off a work that is amateurish in all respects, with all the wrong rookie mistakes. And do we really want another first feature from the “Gor” guy?

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originally posted: 04/04/07 07:01:54
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  20-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2007



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