JANUARY 4, 2012
At least once a year I watch a movie that is really a stretch for horror, and only once or twice have I put my foot down and watched something else for the day rather than write a review. Well, we’re only four days into the year, but hopefully nothing else will be as “on the fence” as The Hunters, which I would almost add to that “No way!” pile if not for two scenes straight out of any survival horror movie of the past 10 years, and an ad campaign that pushes the horror angle more than most legit horror movies!
To be fair it looks like most of this is Lionsgate’s doing; an older (non LG) trailer I found on Youtube (I put them both below) is a bit closer to showing the movie that it actually is – a tale of intersecting characters/storylines that intersect in tragedy at a creepy fort (it’s Crash meets The Keep!), but even that one basically makes it look like a survival thriller. Still, it’s nothing compared to the Gate’s trailer, which oversells Dianna Agron’s presence and makes it look like a Hostel type tale of a pair of lovers heading to a secluded getaway and running afoul of a group of murderers. The synopsis on the back of the DVD is even worse: talking about a GROUP of friends going back to the fort that they played in as kids, only to discover bodies and blood and then the titular hunters. In other words, generic but potentially enjoyable B movie fun, right?
Well there’s no group; Agron and her boyfriend go to a place that HE knows about, and they discover nothing – our hero finds them more or less right after they get there and then one of them is killed moments later. And that’s a spoiler, because they don’t arrive until the film’s FINAL 20 MINUTES, which would be ridiculous even for a 75 minute Asylum thing but is borderline offensive for a film that runs just under 2 hours. And, as you can probably guess by now, Agron isn’t even in it that much (dammit); her screentime is probably 15 minutes at best, and she’s just a peripheral character that never interacts with most of the cast.
No, the movie is really about the collision course between our hero cop (Chris Briant, who also directed) and the hunters, four men who aren’t exactly out to nail a few deer. As with Hostel 2, we get to know two of them – one’s a depressed family man, the other an unhappy jerk, and we get the idea that these “hunts” are pretty much the only time in their lives where they feel in control or whatever. Meanwhile, Briant’s character is newly assigned to the police force in the town where the Fort is located, and he seems to think that it might be connected to an unusually high number of disappearances, but his captain warns him not to get involved and assigns him a lame case involving making sure a witness is kept safe until his important trial.
Needless to say everyone ends up at the fort, which could have been exciting had they all arrived around the same time. There’s a serial killer there as well (that’s the horror stuff), and maybe if the cops, the hunters, and Agron and her boyfriend all had to band together to survive during the killer’s rampage or something, it might have been interesting. But instead, Briant is the only one that links them – the killer doesn’t interact with the hunters much, most of the hunters are dead (via Briant) by the time Agron arrives, etc. There’s a not too surprising twist about what one of the hunters does for a living, but otherwise there isn’t nearly enough intersecting in this “intersecting thriller”. It reminded me a bit of Medium Raw, in fact, where they had all of these characters and a potentially exciting situation, but needlessly kept them all apart for the entire running time. And hey, that one was directed by its main actor too!
Briant’s character also makes little sense – he’s supposedly an ex-soldier, but yet he doesn’t seem to be able to hit the broad side of a barn when firing his weapon. Ditto the hunters – what kind of hunter can’t shoot a guy who is pinned down below him? Briant and the asshole husband hunter have a shootout where they are seemingly only like 50 feet apart but neither of them manage to land a shot in their first dozen or so attempts, even though they aren’t even really moving! Also, he for some reason decides to have the guy he’s supposed to be protecting meet him at the fort; I guess it’s just an excuse to go there against his captain’s orders, but is following a lead really worth potentially getting an important witness killed (which, spoiler, is exactly what happens)? Couldn’t he just tell the guy to meet him at Denny’s or something AFTER he looked around the place he suspected was crawling with murderers? I can accept outlandish coincidences and bad plotting in a stupid slasher movie, because I’m just there to have fun – but if you’re going to make this dour, allegedly character-driven thriller, then I expect a slightly more logical script.
All that said, I’ll give it points for being a bit different – horror or not there aren’t too many movies like this, where we see a tragic tale unfold through the eyes of the police, the criminal, and the innocent victim. With a tighter, more balanced script (again, Agron’s role is far too small for her character to really measure, and her boyfriend might as well be an anonymous extra) this could have been something really cool, but instead it’s mostly just frustrating, because I can see what Briant and screenwriter Michael Lehman were trying to do, and that they weren’t interested in making a movie as generic as the one Lionsgate ended up trying to sell us, but alas, they missed their mark.
The disc’s only extra besides the insultingly misleading trailer is a making of that runs just under 20 minutes. It’s half in French and (sigh) features Agron as if she was the film’s primary star, but the other actors get to talk, as does Briant and a producer who of course stresses that this is a psychological thriller drama, not a horror movie. And for once he’s actually correct – it’s too bad his movie got picked up by the most shameless studio in Hollywood. IFC or Magnolia might not have had as much money to offer, or a guarantee of shelf space at Blockbuster – but they’d at least have sold the potential audience on what The Hunters actually was. Sorry about that, fellas! You can always sue them like Jesse Eisenberg is (funnily enough, the Camp Hell trailer plays at the top of the disc), but hopefully you just take the time to refine your ideas into a more satisfying script when it comes time to mount the next project.
What say you?
The original trailer:And the Lionsgate: