From Fritz Kiersch, director of Children of the Corn, comes a film that is a prime example of how a low budget movie can benefit from good writing, good direction and a good cast. The Hunt presents the story of one small group’s terrifying encounter with otherworldly forces.
Jack Hamberg is an everyman who is trying to find a way to support his new family. Newly married, he wants so much to connect with his stepson, Clint. Jack is an avid outdoorsman and a skilled hunter and manages to make a deal with some large, national chain stores to market what he hopes will become a series of instructional bow hunting videos. But to bring this plan to fruition, he has to swallow his pride and ask his wife’s ex-husband, Jon, Clint’s biological father, for the necessary funds. With this money he is able to lease a forested area of the Oklahoma countryside onto which the owner lures deer for the express purpose of hunting, and pay for the editing and formatting of the videos.
Unfortunately, in order to keep costs down, Jack is forced to enlist a former friend, Atticus Monroe, to help him shoot footage for what will become the first volume of the series. Atticus is a former cameraman for CNN and a recovering alcoholic. Right away there are indications that Atticus’s mental state may be short of stable and that he secretly harbors a great deal of resentment toward Jack.
Additionally, Jack has had a lot of problems in getting Clint to open up to him so he wants to bring him along on the trip so he can have a chance to bond with the boy. In another attempt to cut costs Atticus puts together a rather inventive, miniature, helmet mounted camera that can be worn by Clint. The camera records in digital format and, along with Atticus’ old news camera, makes the outing a two camera shoot without any extra, heavy equipment.
The trio sets out for the leased land before dawn. As soon as they enter the woods, however, the tension begins to mount. They roam for several hours without finding traces of even a single deer. Atticus’s behavior becomes steadily more erratic. He snaps at Clint for every little thing and then snaps at Jack when he tries to defend the boy. Then, at about midday, they spot a lone deer not too far away. Jack takes aim but the animal bolts just as he fires. He manages to wound it, though, and the three take off after it.
Sadly, this development does not improve their luck. Jack can’t seem to find any sign of the wounded deer but their search brings them to a unexpected discovery; a chain link fence that stretches off into the far distance in both directions.
Following the line of the fence they come across a gap, a hole dug under the bottom. Jack is very uneasy about the situation. It’s now early evening and, at this point, he is ready to label their outing a lost cause and just go back home. However, Atticus, growing ever more irritable, manages to convince Jack that they should cross over, goading him with the prospect of utter failure in their business venture.
Once Jack, Clint and Atticus slip into this fenced-off area, a definite sense of dread begins to build. On his camera’s microphone, Atticus picks up a faint, eerie voice whispering, “Here. Over here.” Clint catches sight of a strange figure moving through the trees off in the distance, watching them. And, while vainly searching for a way out, the trio comes across some sort of grid powered by odd, humming columns the likes of which they’ve never seen before. Night falls, and the terror begins, building toward a horrifying climax.
Told in nonlinear fashion and making effective use of hand-held camera techniques, the story possesses an almost minimalist style as it jumps back and forth between the mysterious occurrences out in the woods and the search and rescue efforts put together by Clint’s father. The film also relies more on atmosphere to generate scares than on gore and CG effects. In fact, there is no gore at all. There are some CG and visual effects but they are used sparingly and mostly toward the end of the film.
The entire cast does a great job, especially Mitchell Burns, the young boy who portrays Clint. Seemingly without effort he conveys the conflicting thoughts, emotions and helplessness of a pre-adolescent thrust into a situation not of his choosing, whether it’s a new marriage for his mother, or a hunting trip with a pair of men he barely knows.
As I stated above, this movie is a shining example of everything a low budget movie should be. It’s well worth the rental price.