I’m not sure if it has an official title, the sub-genre in which a female is trapped alone in a building, stalked by a faceless assailant. Whatever it may be, Night of the Hunted is an example of it that plays just a little differently, not always successfully, but with some compelling twists.
We follow Alice, a pharmaceutical PR person who’s recently separated from her husband, trapped in a gas station by a sniper. Who the hunter actually is is the central conceit of the movie. The two can communicate with a walkie-talkie conveniently placed inside the convenience store, and the possibilities keep compounding. Is he a man who lost his child to drugs? Or a man hired by Alice’s husband to take her out? Maybe it’s all just a random occurrence—the already dead gas station attendant would suggest so. Maybe?
It being random is a trope of the genre, and movies like Hush have done a good job of changing things up just a bit. Night of the Hunted is somewhat more ambitious—through most of the movie, it seems plausible the sniper knows who Alice is. But then, he could also just be intuitive, running with what information he is given through their radio chats.
For that conceit to fully work, there are a couple of tenets that have to be met, and I’m not sure Night of the Hunted does so, at least not entirely.
The film runs out of steam about two-thirds in when hints about the hunter’s identity ebbs out. Removing the whodunnit part of what is ostensibly a whodunnit cat-and-mouse game makes a suspenseful thriller that much less suspenseful.
And while I don’t think anyone should watch a film just for the ending, Night of the Hunted lands—no spoilers given—with a dissatisfying thump.
That aside, there’s enough here to like. Camille Rowe puts in a great performance as Alice. Too often, protagonists (and antagonists) manage to pull themselves up effortlessly after being severely injured. Rowe sold the agony to a point where I found myself squirming.
I might also have my issues with the ending, but Night of the Hunted left me pondering for a good while after the credits rolled. The suspense dried out too soon, but what was there got under my skin.
In that sense, Night of the Hunted is well-crafted enough to stay with you. And the burn-out it suffers isn’t enough to make the film anything to pass on.
The critics haven’t been too kind to Night of the Hunted, and while defending it might not be the hill I’m willing to die on, it’s at least one I could be injured on. Perfection is always flawed, as it is.
Letterboxd summary: When an unsuspecting woman stops at a remote gas station in the dead of night, she's made the plaything of a sociopath sniper with a secret vendetta. To survive, she must not only dodge his bullets and fight for her life, but also figure out who wants her dead and why.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|