Lionsgate // 2003 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 25th, 2005
Are you game?
A group of friends from the city decide to head upstate for a weekend of bow hunting. But when their hosts end up being depraved cannibalistic maniacs...well, we've all been there, so I don't have to tell you what that's like!
Steve (Timothy Gibbs) enjoys making love to his perky pregnant wife and all, but once in a while he thinks it would be nice to go on a hunting trip with his a-hole buddies. He's been trying for some time to arrange a weekend, and is delighted when he discovers a lodge upstate (New York I'm presuming) that would be perfect. It's rustic and secluded and you're guaranteed to bag some choice game.
So Steve gathers his cronies together for the big trip, including Frank (Muse Watson) a tough, cigar-chomping Vietnam vet who frowns a lot. Steve, Frank and company take to the road, raring to open fire. But when they reach the lodge, their enthusiasm dies down considerably -- and it's not just the malevolent glares from their redneck hosts that irk them.
"Rustic" is an understatement, as the place turns out to be a ramshackle house with no indoor plumbing or phone lines (how these enterprising hillbillies were able to set up and maintain a website is beyond me). But the guys refuse to let the bummer accommodations dampen their spirits. So they berate their new hick friends and yammer away in annoying NYC accents.
But as soon as they begin their hunting sojourn, the hillbillys turn on them, making them the prey. Now it's a fight to survive for Steve and Frank, who witness their pals cut down one by one, coughing up blood from their mouth even when it makes no physiological sense.
Combine a smidgen of Deliverance, a touch of Surviving the Game (itself a facsimile of the story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell), a pinch of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and three tablespoons of crap, half-bake on high for 97 minutes, and the result is Season of the Hunted. Basically, this movie is a mish-mash of horror and survivalist themes from better movies done on the wicked cheap.
Director Ron Sperling certainly gave it the old college try, but some miserable pacing, annoying character work from the actors, and too many crude filming techniques deep-sixes his effort.
This movie drags. Prior to the mayhem erupting in the woods, where the flick does manage to pick up a little bit of steam, you'll have to sit through some excruciating sequences of people talking in front of static camera shots. One particular scene, with the guys gathered at a restaurant, trudges on forever, as they talk trash to each other, and to a hapless waitress, and laugh, and grunt, and...who the heck cares?! I get what's trying to be done -- set up the characters -- but watching a group of guys eating breakfast does little to secure my interest. I did find them annoying, however; so when the hillbillies go on the attack, I wasn't terribly opposed to their painful deaths.
Bolstering the awkwardness of these scenes is the poor camera work: on an establishing shot the camera will slowly pan, following the characters, and then -- oops! There's a giant tree in the way! And it's still in the way...Hello -- I can't see anything, there's a frickin' tree in the way! Characters are often halfway out of the frame, and much of the action is edited in such a confusing manner the only thing I could assume was that someone was getting shot with an arrow and bleeding from the mouth -- because that's how everyone died.
Speaking of editing, Season of the Hunted boasts the dubious honor of having some of the worst transitions I've seen in a film, irrespective of the budget. Fades-to-black are overused, giving it a really amateurish feel. But the most jarring is the soundtrack, a mixture of rock and synth pieces that cuts out from scene to scene for no reason.
Okay, now is as good a time as any to unveil a new feature in my reviews:
Hey Kids! Let's Look for the Silver Lining!
Though the acting is largely sub-par -- Gibbs's protagonist Steve is nothing more than a whiny little pretty-boy -- Muse Watson as the hard-ass Frank is fun. Yeah, he's the standard grizzled butt-kicking Vietnam-vet caricature, but damn if it wasn't enjoyable seeing him waste redneck cannibal after redneck cannibal.
A shabby full-frame transfer accentuates the film's overall cheap look. The sharpest footage comes from the outdoor sequences; everything else, especially the darker, indoors stuff, reverts to home video form. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very weak, though some of the surrounds are put to use. The center channel, however, belches out some shallow, scratchy dialogue, and the LFE is non-existent. A few trailers are it for the extras.
Hey, if someone mentions cannibal hillbillies getting plugged with arrows, I'd usually be the first in line. But Season of the Hunted is able to make this premise boring, and the execution is laughable.
Guilty. The accused is sentenced to a thirty-day work release program on a skeet shooting range.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R