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Review: Nature has its say in gory and dramatic thriller ‘Hunter Hunter’

Devon Sawa examines a fur trap in the movie "Hunter Hunter."
Devon Sawa in “Hunter Hunter.”
(Heather Beckstead Photography / IFC Films)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

In writer-director Shawn Linden’s survivalist thriller “Hunter Hunter,” Camille Sullivan plays Anne Mersault, who reluctantly lives deep in the woods with her fur trapper husband, Joseph (Devon Sawa), and their resourceful daughter, Renée (Summer H. Howell). The family barely ekes out a living, so when a wolf stalks their land and starts stealing from their traps, the threat taxes an already fraying marriage.

That’s the setup for this film — and it’s plenty dramatic. But Linden uses that premise as the jumping-off point for a surprising and often repulsively gory story, which kicks into high gear when Joseph tracks the wolf and discovers several dismembered bodies, clearly tortured and murdered by a human.

Before “Hunter Hunter” becomes about the standoff between the Mersaults and a deranged serial killer, it’s a portrait of a lifestyle. Linden contrasts the family’s “use every part of the animal” ethos with the carelessness of well-to-do nearby tourists, who call on the overworked local rangers whenever their strewn garbage attracts bears. The film also emphasizes Anne’s concern that Renée has been warped by growing up with a father who has taught her how to use animal brains to tan hides.

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The movie’s final act takes too grim a turn, leading up to an ending that’s overly dark and disgusting. But even as it goes way over the top, “Hunter Hunter” stays focused on the fragility of the Mersaults, who want to live by their own rules but discover that nature has its own agenda.

'Hunter Hunter'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 18, Vineland Drive-in, City of Industry; Mission Tiki Drive-in, Montclair; and in limited release where theaters are open; also on VOD


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