You may need the replace your seat cushions and possibly even need to regrow your fingernails after Night of the Hunted. But these are the hallmarks of a great thriller.
The single-location thriller has been done to death in recent years. From Phone Booth to Buried, the genre has been explored with varying results. But one thing is for certain, the notion of being trapped by an unseen antagonist who will bring your suffering to an end if you fail to comply with his wishes is a nerve-shredding experience. Especially if the team behind the project can capture lightning in a bottle with a quality cast, a dimly lit and unnerving location, and a compelling plot.
The latest thriller to throw its hat into the ring is Franck Khalfoun’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTED. Set in an isolated gas station in the dead of night, the movie changes the formula by centering on a troubled woman becoming the target of a lone sniper. His end game is to eliminate her and any bystanders to happen to cross his path. But with its simple story of sniper versus civilian, can the movie deliver something fresh and new? Or is Night Of The Hunted doomed to fade into the ether as another subpar disappointment?
AN ENTERTAINING THRILLER!
Fear not, dear readers, because Night of the Hunted is a solid and entertaining thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. Throughout its thrifty one-hour and thirty-five-minute running time, Franck Khalfoun delivers a heavenly slice of unnerving fare that will leave you riveted. And in this day and age, that is a rare commodity. Although the material is far from original, Khalfoun’s vision and a gargantuan performance from Camille Rowe deliver buckets of tense fat to chew on. And the reward is a thriller big on tension, low on disappointment, and bursting with delightful blood splatter!
Lensed from the perspective of Alice (Camille Rowe), the movie follows the adulterous pharmaceutical rep as she makes her way home with her lover John (Jeremy Scippio). After using a trip to the fertility clinic to throw her husband off the scent, Alice and her lover enjoy a frivolous weekend away. But during their late-night journey home, the duo stops off at an isolated gas station, and it is here where our story begins.
Using the location to its full potential, Khalfoun uses the isolation to ramp up the tension. From the outset, the director promptly sets the tone for what is a functional and nerve-shredding thriller. After discovering that the gas station is empty, save for a fully stocked mini-mart, a sudden burst of gunfire sends Alice ducking for cover. Any move she makes is answered by a suppressed sniper round pinning her down. What’s more, the phone lines have been cut, the silent alarm has been disconnected, and the only way out is through the gauntlet of gunfire.
What follows is a fight for survival with Alice using the mini-mart’s fully stocked shelves to help her survive. Even after she is wounded, she improvises a makeshift dressing to stop the flow of blood. It’s eye-watering and gruesome stuff. But its visceral and graphic imagery helps to keep the material grounded and in the realm of realism.
It is this commitment to realism that allows Khalfoun to tap into the sheer terror an invisible assailant has upon its victim. There is something truly terrifying about a malevolent force trying to kill you. And the director and his team of creatives have tapped into that primal fear to great effect here. What’s more, Alice’s only lifeline to the outside world arrives in the form of a walkie-talkie. But her jubilation quickly turns into terror when she realizes that the voice on the other end is none other than her attacker. And he uses the device to taunt and berate her throughout the never-ending procession of gunfire. Their interactions drop subtle hints of his motives. And the material opens a dialogue about gun crime. But thankfully, the material never serves as a vehicle for political satire.
Even when more unsuspecting victims arrive to fill up at the pumps, the gunfire is relentless, picking off victims without mercy. And just when the writers have you fearing the worst, they turn the film on its head when the gunman allows some to survive. It’s a masterstroke of storytelling that has the audience second-guessing the fate of each victim. And this tense game of Russian roulette is more than enough to raise the stakes. All I will say is, don’t get too attached to anyone arriving to fill their tank.
The visceral injuries and fast-flowing blood look excellent throughout, and they continue to impress when set against the gloomy atmosphere. Adding even more weight to the atmosphere, the subdued musical score injects a constant sense of dread and unease as Alice crawls around the gas station. The score is mostly superb, ramping up the tension when needed. The heavy usage of tension-creating music builds into a crescendo that accompanies the movie perfectly. And in a darkened room, it effortlessly conveys a sense of dread and foreboding throughout.
Given that Night of the Hunted is a lone survival story, the movie demands a colossal performance from its lead. And thankfully, Camille Rowe is more than up to the task. Here, she delivers a landmark performance. And she carries the movie on her broad shoulders for large parts of the running time. Her interactions with her attacker are both poignant and chilling in equal measure. These conversations allow for some serious character depth and offer a window into her adultery. In the end, Alice emerges as a true survivor, matching wits with her attacker at every turn. And it is a joy to watch the unsettling game of cat and mouse unfold. Even when the stakes reach their inevitable conclusion.
Overall, I had a blast with Night of the Hunted. If Franck Khalfoun set out to deliver a refreshingly tense and chilling survival story, he succeeded. The movie is a rare gem. One that will have you gripping the arm of your chair for 90 minutes and change. With its dark and engaging narratives, visceral bloodletting, satisfying jump scares, and solid performance from Camille Rowe, the movie is a solid addition to your Halloween watchlist. Throughout its seldom dull one-hour and thirty-five-minute running time, the story never overstays its welcome and guides its audience to its jaw-dropping conclusion.
You may need the replace your seat cushions and possibly even need to regrow your fingernails when all is said and done. But these are the hallmarks of a great thriller. So warm up the popcorn, dim the lights, and settle in for a nerve-shredding survival thriller that has it all. Happy viewing.
Night Of The Hunted will be released on Shudder on Friday 20th October. Subscribe to our newsletter at the top of our homepage to stay up-to-date with all the latest Shudder news and reviews from Future of the Force.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!