The Hunt (2006)
When a film maker decides to combine several genres he often finds himself on shaky ground. The key elements must be preserved and blended in order to make the movie work. At its best the results can be spectacular. More often than not the flick falls short of the potential of the individual types presented. This is the case in the 2006 film by Fritz Kiersch, ‘The Hunt’. It is part thriller, part horror with a little science fiction thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t manage to carry the sparse plot. All the proper elements are there but like a meal in a fine restaurant when the quantities of the ingredients are off even slightly the potential is not met. The film has its moments but tries to hard to serve the basics of each genre represented.
As the film opens Jon Kraw (Cliff De Young) has been searching for a lost hunting party for several days. His current wife, Jean (Becky Love) is documenting the so far unsuccessful efforts on a video camera. The government officials gave up after only one day but Jon is determined to find the lost hunters. The film then cuts to two men and a boy testing video equipment. Jack Hamberg (Joe Michael Burke) has a plan to make a good deal of money quickly. With the help of his friend Atticus Monroe (Robert Rusler) and his step son, Clint (Mitchell Burns) they are going into the woods to make a how to video of stalking and killing a deer with a bow. Atticus is a former CNN video journalist who has been around the world committing history to film. He has the professional level equipment and the know how to handle the technical side of the project. He even put together a helmet for Clint complete with a lipstick camera to help gather point of view shots. Jack is an experienced bow hunter and is sure their combination of talents will make a great video. He even has a connection with someone in Wal-Mart to carry the finish film with an option for several more. Also in on the preparation is Jack’s wife Tessa (Amy Briede) mother of Clint and ex wife of Jon. Jack goes to Jon to help in the financing with a promise of a great return on his investment. Clint is not taking the divorce well and is having some difficulty bonding with his step father so Tessa hopes that this trip will bring the two closer. While filming the introduction to the film Atticus turns the powerful parabolic microphone on Tessa while she is talking to Jack and over hears that she doesn’t trust him. Jack is also dubious about Atticus but needs his expertise. It was hinted that Atticus has a couple of months of sobriety but after hearing the doubts of his partners gets drunk.
The day of the big hunt arrives and the three trek off into the woods. Jack had secured the rights to hunt on the land for a day so the pressure is on to find and kill a deer quickly. Before they enter the woods they see another hunter (Thomas Cunningham) leaving in a Ghillie suit who assures them there are no deer to be had. After a short while they do spot a buck and Jack takes a shot but only wounds the animal. They begin to track it only to find it has gone into a part of the woods surrounded by a barb wire fence. Even though going beyond the fence is trespassing they need the shot of the kill and decide to go anyway. Soon they find themselves followed by helicopters and four wheelers and they are on the run themselves. Meanwhile back at the search they find one unnamed survivor. With him were the tapes of the hunt that provides clues to Jon that something very wrong went on. Jon examines he footage and starts asking questions and soon discovers that his own home is bugged. Jon notices that the barb wire on the fence was facing the inside, keeping something in not people out.
It might have been better if writer/director Fritz Kiersch stuck to a good old fashion horror flick. After all he was at the helm of a cult classic in the genre, ‘Children of the Corn’. The plot here is too spread out to really provide any thrills. There is little in the way of action to make it a thriller and the ‘surprise’ ending comes too late for a horror flick. What the film does have is a strong emotional thread especially in the extended family dynamic between Jack and Clint as well as Jon’s need to find out what happened to the hunting party. By omitting the name of the survivor Keirsch apparently hoped to pull the audience into a mystery. Unfortunately, when the identity is reveal most of the audience will have figured it out anyway. The twist at the conclusion of the film is right out of an old ‘Twilight Zone’ or perhaps an ‘Outer Limits’ episode. The pacing is well done. This is especially important considering the film is played out in two distinct timelines, the hunt and the search. The film has its faults but overall it does deliver some degree of entertainment. He does rely a bit too much on emulating ‘The Blair Witch Project’ with the footage from the hunt and the roll up at the end indicating it was a ‘real life story’.
The acting is good here. The take the script and make the most out of it. Joe Michael Burke combines the aspects of hunter with a man who just wants to make his relationship with is new step son work. This helps to pull the audience in by giving them a real character to hold on to. Robert Rusler avoids the trap of taking his role too far over the top. Instead he portrays a man on the downward slope of his career trying to get back on top. Mitchell Burns is only a child so some slack has to be given here. Most of his role is crying and being afraid. The one actor here with a long list of credits is Cliff De Young. He is an accomplished character actor in both film and television and does well as Jon. He helps to anchor the film.
Image Entertainment does a good job bringing this film to DVD. The video is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 with usually good qualities. The ‘footage’ from the hunt cameras is deliberately made grainy and dark but overall the color balance and contrast are good. The Dolby 5.1 audio is underplayed but does have very good tonal balance and channel separation. There is a featurette called the "The Hunt Chronicles" which gives a behind the scenes look. In the final analysis this is a good flick for a beer and pizza Saturday afternoon with some friends.