19th Oct2023

‘Night of the Hunted’ Review (Shudder)

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Camille Rowe, Jeremy Scippio, Stasa Stanic | Written by Franck Khalfoun, Glen Freyer | Directed by Franck Khalfoun

Night of the Hunted, the latest film from Franck Khalfoun (P2, Maniac) is a remake, but not of Jean Rollin’s 1980 paranoid thriller of the same name, though that would be a logical choice for rebooting in these conspiracy-riddled times. Instead, he and co-writer Glen Freyer (Suicide, the Comedy, American Football: How the Gridiron Was Forged) have reworked and updated Rubén Ávila Calvo and David R.L.’s 2015 Spanish thriller Night of the Rat.

This film begins in a hotel room where Alice (Camille Rowe; The Deep House, Cosmic Dawn) is talking to her husband on the phone, we hear something about an appointment with a fertility specialist before she hurriedly hangs up as John (Jeremy Scippio; Groove, Underbelly Blues) enters the room. Driving back to town in the pre-dawn darkness they make a stop for gas despite Jiohn’s insistence that he filled the tank the day before. Alice goes in to grab some snacks, and as she does that we see the car leaking gas from a punctured line. As Alice turns to leave the seemingly empty store, she’s struck by a bullet.

I can see why Khalfoun was attracted to Night of the Hunted. It combines the isolated female lead elements of his debut film P2 with the long tradition of films about deranged snipers, Targets, Two Minute Warning, Downrange, and most noticeably Larry Cohen and Joel Schumacher’s one-location thriller, Phone Booth.

The basic idea is remarkably simple, Alice has to keep herself, and anyone who may wander into the store, alive while being taunted via walkie-talkie by the shooter who seems to be perched on a strange religious billboard that proclaims “GODISNOWHERE”, just like that, no spaces. Is God now here? Or is he nowhere?

His comment that he shot the cashier because he “couldn’t bear to think of her with another man” suggests he may know Alice. Regardless if this is targeted or random, Night of the Hunted gets plenty of suspense out of the situation. Alice not only has to keep out of sight and try to find a way to escape, but she also has to deal with the fact that anyone who comes into the store could as easily be the killer as they could be a potential victim.

Night of the Hunted takes another interesting twist when the unseen shooter starts ranting about vaccines and pharmaceutical companies, guess what field Alice works in, killing people for profits and to control the population. Combined with other comments, such as ones about the Me Too movement and how “everything offending everybody these days” he begins to sound like the nutters you see posting on social media. This is fitting since Alice’s job involves social media marketing.

But unlike most of these trolls, by the end of the film the sniper (Stasa Stanic) is doing more than rage-posting. And by the final act, they get out from behind their keyboard, or walkie-talkie as the case may be, and confront their target face to face. If Night of the Hunted is meant to be a reflection of the disinformation and violence being stoked on Twitter, Facebook, Truth Social, etc it’s a damned effective one.

More importantly, though, it’s an exceptionally effective exercise in suspense from a director who knows how to deliver the goods when he wants to. He’s given plenty of help by cinematographer Steeven Petitteville (Terror on the Prairie, The Deleted) who gets a lot of mileage out of that convenience store. Initially capturing that 2 AM look and feel that anyone who’s worked late shifts knows. He’s just as good at drawing atmosphere out of it once the lights are off and there’s only the glow from the coolers.

Much credit also goes to Camille Rowe who is on screen in almost every frame of Night of the Hunted, often with nothing but a disembodied voice to respond to. It’s an excellent performance, especially towards the end of the film as Alice’s pain and desperation push her to the breaking point. She certainly gives her all in the final fight with the shooter. While somewhat spoiled by the cliched need to draw a small child into it, it’s a savage and messy affair that properly pays off what’s come before.

After I Lived, Amityville: The Awakening and Prey (not the Predator film), Khalfoun really needed to deliver with Night of the Hunted and he did. This is his best film since the Maniac reboot and overall one hell of a thriller.

****½  4.5/5

Night of the Hunted will be in UK Cinemas and available to stream on Shudder from 20th October and then available on TVOD from 20th November.

Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony

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