Night of the Hunted
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.
Initial release: 20 August 1980
Director: Jean Rollin
Sometimes simplicity in horror is very effective. Take a very routine moment, something so familiar to viewers they realize they wouldn’t even think twice about it, and turn it into something sinister.
It’s late. You stop for gas. A sociopath with a high-powered rifle and good aim is hiding behind a God Is Nowhere billboard.
Franck Khalfoun’s Night of the Hunted is the latest horror to make what it can of a tiny cast, limited set of locations, and modern anxieties. Camille Rowe is Alice. She and John (Jeremy Scippio) are on their way back from a conference – their relationship is complicated – but Alice is in a hurry. And not in a great mood.
It’s 2 am. They stop for gas. The sniper makes excellent use of the well-lit, heavily windowed setting. There’s also a walkie talkie.
Any film that focuses so heavily on an exchange between two people only works when the writing and performances are strong. Rowe delivers when the script lets her. Alice is savvy and angry, recognizes her weaknesses but makes frustrating choices. Those choices are, of course, part of the character’s arc. They may also be due to the fact that all five writers and the director are men.
Night of the Hunted pulls in a lot of buzzy ideas and mixes and matches in a way that’s sometimes clever – the sniper toys with Alice, but why would Alice (or the audience) believe he means anything he says? It’s also sometimes frustrating for a number of reasons, chief among them that the monologue never ties to anything concrete in the story. No insight is gleaned – which is fine as no insight is needed, but the film behaves as if the speechifying has relevance.
There’s tension and some smart moments, although Night of the Hunted is still just another horror movie made by men in which the female lead has no purpose or value until she finds her maternal instinct.