Sincere is not the usual word used when it comes to horror films. Many other words come to mind, but not that one. Strange then that sincere is a word that rang in my head throughout Josh Stewarts excellent directorial debut film, The Hunted. Is it scary? Yes it is, but also honest. It has been a while since I saw a film like this and said to myself Hey, these are real people.
The Hunted starts off in typical found footage fashion by introducing us to Jake and his family. Jake is out to shoot a pilot for a hunting show with his friend Stevie (Ronnie Gene Blevins) that he hopes to be able to sell. It is never easy being a creative and as Jakes wife Ashlee (Nikki Deloach) reminds him. A lot is riding on this trip and you can see the sense of purpose in Jakes eyes. He is going to get some great footage or die trying.
The plan is to take down a large Buck nicknamed Movie Star. He is the prize of that land and Jake has made sure they are alone up there, or so they think. After several strange occurrences, Jake and Stevie begin to suspect that someone doesnt want them up there. After talking with a local girl though, Stevie begins to come to a different conclusion. It isnt someone but something.
The Hunted is based on actual events. Yes, that is thrown around a lot, but whats interesting in this case is that these experiences actually happened to Josh Stewart back in his college days. I won’t give away the details since it is an important reveal but suffice it to say that the screams you hear will keep you up at night. I dont like the woods anyway but I am definitely never going now.
There are always comparisons to The Blair Witch Project when you are dealing with found footage and most fall short of quality while showing you more and more of the horror. The Hunted actually surpasses many of the films made since Blair Witch and it does it with just sound. I cant stress how important sound is to a horror feature and this film nails it. Walter Werzowa and John Luker have put together an amazing sound design for this film that will keep you on edge for the duration. Of course, the other appealing aspect of the film is the characters. Jake and Stevie are guys you may know and you want to see them succeed. So many times in found footage films you are asked to share the room with unlikeable and unbelievable people. Not the case here. As I said in the beginning, this film is sincere.
Horror works best when we are actually horrified and for that to happen, we need to care. Josh Stewart succeeds in making that a reality and that is an accomplishment all its own. The Hunted is a film about a couple of guys who step into the familiar only to find themselves in hell. Grave as it may sound, you should take the journey with them.