Night of the Hunted
Horror flick a tad too on the nose and arguably overstays its welcome, but still thrills.
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French horror director Franck Khalfoun’s latest offering “Night of the Hunted” (now streaming on Shudder) recalls single-location thrillers along the lines of “Phone Booth,” “Buried” and his own “P2.” It’s a gripping exercise in terror that also serves as a treatise about post-Jan. 6, 2021 America. It’s often a tad too on the nose and arguably overstays its welcome, but it still thrills.
Alice (model-turned-actress Camille Rowe) is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for a pharmaceutical conglomerate. She’s out of town on business for a conference, but also has plans of seeing a fertility specialist as she and her husband Erik (Aleksander Popovic) are having troubles conceiving.
Alice never makes her appointment because she and her colleague John (Jeremy Scippio) stop at a desolate, desert gas station that just so happens to be in the sights of an anonymous sniper (Stasa Stanic) who’s perched atop a nearby billboard reading, “GODISNOWHERE.” This could be read as, “God is now here,” or “God is nowhere” … heavy.
The gunman has already shot and killed the filling station’s lone clerk Amelia (Brenda Nunez) and has every intention of continuing his murderous spree. He’s come prepared in that he’s cut the store’s phone lines and silent alarm and somehow managed to sever the fuel line to Alice and John’s car. He’s left a two-way radio with which he and Alice can communicate. Much of what he says amounts to the ramblings of a right-wing conspiracy theorist. He takes Alice to task for working for big pharma (“It’s those damned vaccines!”) and makes assertions that she screwed her way up the corporate ladder. Ultimately, he’s just another angry white man with a gun.
“Night of the Hunted” is a remake of David R.L.’s 2015 Spanish chiller “Night of the Rat.” I haven’t seen that one, but was largely engaged with this one. Khalfoun expertly ratchets up the tension … especially considering he’s working largely in a single location. The script from Khalfoun and Glen Freyer does grow somewhat repetitive. (I saw someone on Letterboxd quip that the flick feels like an annoying Frenchman plugged right-wing talking points into ChatGPT and this was the result … not entirely fair nor entirely off-base.)
Rowe elevates the material at every turn in what’s largely a one-woman show. I felt for her Alice even if she wasn’t always the most sympathetic of characters. I mostly just wish she were working within a 75-minute construct as opposed to a 90 minute one. There are problematic elements with the way in which Khalfoun and Freyer treat their heroine – they often seem to be simultaneously condemning and uplifting her. It’s as if she’s only truly worthy of survival once she’s embraced her latent maternal instincts.
Despite its drawbacks “Night of the Hunted” mostly hits its target … it might just piss off the right, the left and the apolitical in the process. There’s no Robert Mitchum, but it’s fairly bitchin’.