Movie Reviews

Night of the Hunted Review: Shoots Alot, But Missed

I have a confession to make. I often push my luck when it comes to fueling my car. Even if I pass by multiple gas stations, I tend to wait until the gas light turns on before searching for a nearby gas station. However, this habit can be risky and unpleasant, especially during a drive in an area with few gas stations, in the middle of a traffic jam, or alone at night. When I was watching the beginning of the movie “Night of the Hunted,” where a woman finds out she needs to fill her tank in an empty gas station in the middle of the night, I could relate to her situation.

But this is only the film’s starting point, and it turns out not to be its absolute horror. When I read the plot description, which directed me to a horror thriller about a psychopath who threatens to shoot the poor woman inside the convenience store, I had expectations for a movie that would leave me on edge. However, after an hour and a half, I’m still determining if the movie delivered what it promised, even though it’s not terrible. You are welcome to read our “Night of the Hunted” review.

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What Is Night Of The Hunted (2023) All About?

“Night of the Hunted” is actually a remake of a not-so-well-known Spanish thriller called “Night of the Rat” (“La noche del ratón”) from 2015. It is about a joint trip to work that goes wrong. The film is not connected to the French paranoid thriller with the samiliar name, “The Night of the Hunted” (“La nuit des traquées”).

“Night of the Hunted” opens with a scene where we develop negative feelings towards the heroine. Alice (the French model-actress Camille Rowe, who starred in the lovable “The Deep House” and is also known as one of Harry Styles exes) has a Skype conversation with her husband. During this meeting, we discover that she is also having an affair with a work colleague (Jeremy Scippio) and that she and her husband are undergoing fertility treatments. Alice and the colleague drive in the middle of the night, but they have to fill the tank even though the co-worker said he had done it the day before.

Alice buys some things for the ride, makes her coffee in the machine but discovers that there is no one to pay to. A few seconds later, someone tries to shoot her. Later on, he will also contact her via walkie-talkie – of course, since this is a horror thriller, it is clear that a telephone will be out of the picture very quickly – and will try to kill just about everyone who happens to arrive at the gas station. We don’t see the shooter but understand that he is hiding in a billboard that overlooks the convenience store. Because there are many shots of this billboard, and billboards don’t talk to shoot people, as I recall.

Here is “Night of the Hunted” 2023 trailer, so get you into the mood:

Night Of The Hunted Review: Familiar Principle, Different Execution

I saw several movies in this style, and some didn’t even star Liam Neeson on them. The principle is that, according to the better ones, I expect a film that will keep me in suspense, even though (and maybe because) it takes place mainly in one location: for example, Joel Schumacher’s excellent “Phone Booth” from 2003. In such films, I will fear for the fate of the heroine, I will discover exciting things about her or the reasons for the events that take place in the film, and I will also enjoy useless sequences of almost getting hurt, saving at the last minute, and the like.

“Night of the Hunted” doesn’t wholly lack these points, but they are few and far between. Rowe does a good job, but it’s hard to say that I felt identification or much sympathy with her because – Let’s face it – her character is a bit annoying. The secondary characters in the cast of “Night of the Hunted” (2023) are far from exciting or significant, except for one character who manages to evoke sympathy for her following the story. The few revelations about the killer or their motives in the film are relatively insignificant.

The film’s director is Franck Khalfoun, who broke out with the engaging “P2” in 2007. His debut film reminds in some aspects of the current film, in that it is a survival film of a girl (stunning Rachel Nichols) against a psychopath (the excellent Wes Bentley) who pursues her in an abandoned place in the middle of the night, this time an underground parking lot and not a gas station. Even the subsequent movies of Khalfoun, such as “Maniac” starring Elijah Wood and even the disappointing “Amityville: The Awakening” with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bella Thorne, had some lovely moments of tension.

In “Night of the Hunted,” Khalfoun manages to quite accurately convey the feelings that accompany an abandoned gas station at night, partly thanks to the effective cinematography of Steeven Petitteville (“Terror on the Prairie,” which, contrary to its name, is a western about gangsters and not a horror film about lions), but not always Creates the feelings of claustrophobia, the chase against time or the feeling that at any moment you can be shot, as you should feel in movies with a similar plot.

When You Have To Shoot, Shoot. Don’t Talk

The main problem of “Night of the Hunted” begins the moment we find out that the mysterious guy who contacts the heroine through the walkie-talkie is none other than the assassin (Don’t shoot me! It’s pretty clear from the first second and also appears in the trailer, so it’s not too much of a spoiler). The truth is that in these moments, the film loses all momentum for the simple reason that the assassin guy is, to put it mildly, quite a prattler. The main culprit is the script, which probably didn’t apply the famous quote from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” by Sergio Leone: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk!”.

Instead of using the conversations with the killer for potentially short sequences of tension, during the conversations, the guy mainly elaborates on all kinds of issues that bother him in our world and sometimes in Alice as well. We hear his opinions on pharmaceutical companies, vaccines, politics, weapons, fertility, sexual harassment in the age of Me Too, Covid-19, English soccer, recommended textile products for small kitchens, gourmet ice creams, keeping away pigeons, the recommended preparation techniques for eggplants, the actor to play the next James Bond, and more (well, some of these topics didn’t appear in the movie, but you get the point).

My first feeling was that someone in the production wanted to add these issues to the agenda and say something about them. At some point, it becomes oppressive and repetitive, and these conversations hurt the ability to create adequate tension or horror. The film raises issues but misses something like the killer’s shots, which reveal a lack of uniformity: on the one hand, complex injuries that would not embarrass a sniper in an elite unit in the army. On the other hand, some shots are missing the target in a manner that looks like it came out of the seasonal performance video of a failed football striker.

When I thought about it in depth, I saw a potential direction that gave the film a proper meaning. At one point, the sniper’s arguments reminded me of their structure and the depth of useless talkbacks that can be found on the Internet and on social networks about subjects that the commenters do not know much about. The sniper “shoots” these “posts” quite violently, entirely anonymously, because we don’t know who he is, and his main target is a woman who, probably not coincidentally, works in social media.

Later, when he exits from the direction of the advertisement sign (which in its form resembles a computer screen) and points in the direction of the store – again, this is not exactly a spoiler either – I think you can see it as a relatively rare case where the “talkback writer” exits the screen, to make his ideas come true. I don’t know if this is what the creators intended, but if, in this way, it is possible to explain the plot’s choice that quite harms the film’s feelings of tension, who am I to object? Especially considering the fact that “Night of the Hunted” ending explained in an unsatisfying manner, as you can read in many “Night of the Hunted” reviews online

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When The Killer Turns Into A MacGuffin

Take, for example, the main question you may ask in thrillers like that: Who was the killer of “Night of the Hunted,” meaning the identity of the killer? 

The action in the movie starts quite quickly, even in its first ten minutes. We know that the heroine is having an affair and works for a pharmaceutical company, and that’s pretty much it. There are almost no happenings before arriving at the gas station and no exciting revelations afterward. In other words, although the film tries to imply otherwise in some dialogues, there is no real tension regarding the killer’s identity because we understand it doesn’t matter who he is. Although some horror films can work without a dominant evil or face of terror, it’s a risk that’s hard to say works here one hundred percent.

Just like in film noir movies where you are looking for some item that is not important to the plot – the term that came to my mind is “MacGuffin,” which is associated with Hitchcock (although an English screenwriter named Angus MacPhail used it for the first time) and describes a plot device that advances the plot and motivates the heroes, But not relevant to the story itself. The viewer does not care what that tool or object is, and its discovery is haphazard. The MacGuffin is not a disadvantage, and with tight direction and script, you can use it to create tension or advance the film in other ways. For example, no one cares that “The Maltese Falcon” was a sculpture because this masterpiece film noir created tension and identification with the heroes in different ways.

In the case of “Night of the Hunted,” I would have preferred if we got something like ten more minutes in which potential suspects are added to the list, even a woman that our Alice argued with on the road or something like that so that maybe we could think about who is behind the threats to the heroine and what exactly are the motives His. That is, beyond the fact that there are many things in the world and in what the main character represents that bothers him, or the analysis I offered regarding social media that I am not sure can hold an entire film.


Should You Watch Night Of The Hunted (2023)?

“Night of the Hunted” is, on the whole, a reasonable film. The general idea is interesting; there are some well-done sequences, and it manages to be suspenseful for some parts. The performance of the leading actress is satisfactory, even if there was a lot of room to create a more complex character, or if you want one that we like more as viewers.

I think the film didn’t quite decide its direction or what it wanted to say. Therefore, the final result could have been better. Anyway, if you are looking for a thriller to pass an hour and a half with some thrills in the middle of the night, “Night of the Hunted” can do the job. It is targeted mainy for home viewing, considering it’s tiny cinematic distribution and minimal box office gross, but sometimes that’s fine.

You will probably forget “Night of the Hunted” (2023) in a few hours after watching it, but it may remind you not to wait for your tank to become close to empty the next time you drive.

You are welcome to read more of our horror reviews here.

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