Chasing their dream of landing their own hunting show, two hunters head into the dense, secluded mountains of West Virginia only to realize they are not alone.
The Hunted is a 2013 film written, directed and starring Josh Stewart in which a hunter and his friend travel into the woods to film a hunting show that is as exciting as it sounds even as things take a turn for the worse.
The film begins as a light-hearted look into the life of the hunter Jake, played by Josh Stewart, and his makeshift crew filming a reality show for hunters. With a brief introduction to Jake and his family playing and talking about his intentions then a quick car ride to meet the more bit characters that provide exposition about the hunt leads to the slow and quiet story itself.
Starting with the staple of a good found footage film, The Hunted doesn’t the camera work is smooth which is aided by the character Stevie, played by Ronnie Gene Blevins, who left his job as a news crew cameraman to help Jake with his show. This is ruined by the rest of the film being terrible.
Acting between characters is far from wooden but there are moments where the film gives too much weight to the show that drives the plot and not enough to the plot and character development itself. This translates into characters talking but nothing actually worth hearing being said.
As the film turns into the plot it is muddied with slow expositions and dull scenes that do little to build tension. As much as the dialogue feels natural between characters it is low and quiet. This serves well in scenes where some characters seem suspicious while in other parts it drags, so much that the first twenty five minutes feel twenty longer than they should be.
Things do begin to build up as the two argue over a cry they hear in the woods as to whether or not it’s a bobcat or a human, while finding Jake’s knife in a tree near their filming equipment. Once again the impact is low and quiet, giving little conflict as they seem to jump time between the argument instead of covering the issue at the moment which pads the film by minutes and bores an audience expecting an obvious payoff.
That payoff actually turns out to be a dead bobcat. This is further displaced by the two finding more of their equipment tampered with, creating less tension and more confusion in the audience after the characters who are content allowing their equipment being tampered with twice continue their filming and hunting.
The second night comes and the screaming returns as the two men re-affix their equipment to the trees and what once was a bobcat cry now clearly resembles a terrified and injured woman. With a definite concern the two move out to investigate but find nothing on their own.
Returning to the lodge they have been using as a base they intend to ask the land owner Tony, played by Skipp Sudduth, about the cries. They briefly get spooked by an old hunter telling them to leave, then go inside to talk. Tony placates them with words about his knowledge of the land and the goal Jake has for his show but inside the conversation he talks about a ghost story he doesn’t believe in without any real information about the tale itself.
This is where the plot barely comes to a true conflict between Jake, Stevie and Tony but ultimately isn’t interesting because what story there may be is ignored until two scenes later when Stevie goes behind Jake’s back and talks to Jessi, one of Tony’s employees played by Jessi Blue Gormezano, who tells the tale of a woman ghost who walked back and forth on the trail, screaming. The tale itself is inter-cut with Jake leaving a video message for his wife, a frustrating experience as you wait to hear the tale after bits of pointless cheese.
Eventually Jessi explains that the woman was abused violently by her drunk husband, provoking her to lock him up in the house and burn the place down in his sleep. As soon as other men come to help her husband she used a shotgun to stop them and eventually killed herself shortly after.
All of this has been paramount to a dull throb of possible fear that may scare someone once before the film ends. The first jump scare of the film is ten minutes past the halfway point, with Jake walking up behind Stevie reviewing footage of his talk with Jessi. The only possibly scary scene before that was when they heard the third scream in the woods.
The next scene in the woods is all the other scenes in the woods combined; broken equipment, screaming, Jake and Stevie being way too quiet. They go through this process the whole morning into the next night with nothing happening.
The first real argument follows this as they debate on using the combined recordings of the screams with Jessi’s story to salvage the show as they haven’t managed to even shoot at a single deer. Jake tells Stevie they won’t do it because of Tony becoming mad and possibly firing Jessi which would matter if we cared about these characters.
The climax begins as Stevie reviews the stills on a tracking camera and finds a sapling moving with nothing on camera and a flash of light in the middle of the night while there was nothing to trigger the shots.
Things complicate further when their ATV is thrashed and their supplies are spread out but there is nothing on the camera except their equipment moving on its own. Trying to escape on foot the two run from another scream near a river and double back to the road the ATV was on.
Jake stops to catch something with his camera and as the silence fills the film and pads events more a cream finally shoots out with no visuals and the ATV revs up in the distance while the two run. Stevie breaks down while Jake tries to get him to stop but Stevie runs off and Jake follows, screaming for him to come back. The two follow this pattern until the unseen ghost attacks Stevie and Jake trips over himself in the woods.
Jake records himself this whole time, with a camera on his face and when he moves around to find Stevie he finds a flashlight standing in the woods with screaming coming from it. Running away once more, he records himself yet again to take shots of himself being scared until dawn and shots of the woods to follow the non-visual entity.
Jake finds Stevie’s camera on the ground, fast forwarding through the whole film until he finds the footage of Stevie’s body getting dragged off into the woods by nothing. Jake mugs the camera once more and says that he can’t find Stevie then hears a voice coming from the river. Thinking it is Stevie, Jake goes into the water only to be dragged under while the same screaming goes off. The film ends holding on where Jake went under until the camera jostles while the scream goes off again.
The film is a wasted effort. With decent equipment and a clear advertising boost from all of the labeled equipment they only end up filming two men running around the woods for an hour and then two men running around the woods scared of a scream and stuff moving on its own for twenty minutes.\
Admittedly there is a strange element to things moving with nothing being behind the action and screaming in the woods is unsettling. Rinse and repeat the process for twenty minutes after an hour of pointless confusion and vague elements of what goes into hunters recording themselves and it becomes dull and annoying.
This film is the horror film equivalent of getting up in the morning to go on a road trip, stopping at a diner and someone’s child screaming through the meal. If the hunting aspect is what you’re interested in then there must be better films than this.