Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Skyfire Productions and Writer/Actor, Jason Kellerman for allowing me early access to an online screener of his independent Horror/Thriller film “Hunter”, Directed by David Tarleton. Hunter (played by Kellerman) centers around a young man of the same name, haunted by a tragic past. Once a dominant brawler, now with unresolved PTSD issues and consigned to a life on the unforgiving streets in Chicago, Hunter grapples with the supernatural truth behind what happened to his family and eventually meets Danni (Rachel Cerda), a caseworker of sorts who may just be the key to his personal salvation. The film also stars Leigh Foster, Ryan Heindl, Beau Forbes, and Nick Searcy.
Kellerman kickstarts proceedings with a gritty cage fight montage that sees a popular and inked Hunter going round for round with various local “contenders”. Cut to a downtrodden and heavy bearded present-day Hunter, who wakes from one nightmare and straight into another – the realization that he’s homeless and now on the streets of Chicago during the middle of winter. What we know is that something violent occurred and it’s now causing Hunter all sorts of psychological problems. Through natural evolution, the film actually becomes much more about the drama than it does its thrills and that threw me somewhat and is bound to do the same with other viewers. DP, Scotty Summers presents us with some nice swift dolly movements and an overall slick look to the image. A stylish upshot of the city skyline and consistently good over the shoulder shots are the films visual highlights. The audio track appears to contain some ADR (additional dialogue recording), but for the most part, it’s a clear recording. The score is most interesting when it’s calling on sharp orchestral tones to build the atmosphere, most notably in the second act. The performances are generally consistent and serviceable, with Cerda the best of the bunch. Rachel’s rawness combined with the character’s good nature certainly makes her the most likable. Kellerman challenges himself by seeing to it that his character run the full gamut of emotions, in turn, delivering some pretty solid moments. Whilst not as threatening as he could’ve been, Searcy, as Volakas, is a welcomed addition with his experience on show in the third act. There are a couple of action sequences that involve some practical blood but they don’t take front and center.
On the technical side of things, I found a combination of too many quick-cut visuals and static editing that simply don’t give you any time to get your bearings, particularly during the opening act. I think filmmakers often feel a need to utilize rapid or static symbolism in order to convey a fractured psyche, and while that might be the case, it just doesn’t make for great viewing. The lack of light in the “home invasion” sequence involving Volakas and his men made it difficult to discern any of the particulars. On occasion, the dialogue comes across as clunky too. Hunter uses the line “screw off” after having his patience tested by a fellow bum. It’s almost as if he was intentionally trying not to swear, need I say that the appropriate word replacement for that one goes without saying. Danni well and truly wears out Hunter’s name, using it an inordinate amount of times at the beginning of sentences. It’s awkward and unnatural, especially when they’re the only two people in the room. If I recall correctly, Hunter mentions Paul (Foster), one of the mysterious men, quite early on in the piece, although it wasn’t clear as to how he even knew who he was at that point. I always shake my head at characters who do their damnedest to act like lunatics and are still surprised when they inevitably draw attention to themselves. There are at least two examples of Hunter doing that exact thing. The first comes while he’s doing a little recon in tailing young Luke (Heindl), who spots him, and a rattled Hunter hurriedly takes off – not smart. The second is more noticeable as he lets out a maniacal laugh before running from a group of police officers (as you do). I suppose one could argue that his mind has played tricks on him in the past, but the problem is that we’ve already seen a lighter side of him come to the surface in his interactions with Danni, along with his ability to direct that mindset, therefore, it doesn’t make much sense. Details regarding the “mystery men” were scarce and I would’ve loved to have known a little bit more about how that community materialized.
Hunter is a competently made and fairly polished Horror/Thriller from Tarleton and Kellerman. Certain aspects of films like “The Thompsons”, and even some of the fundamentals in that of “Van Helsing” can be found here. By and large, the cinematography is quite skillful, the audio pops nicely, and the orchestral based score fits the tone of the material. The performances work pretty well and the few moments of supernatural action are decent. Unfortunately, I’d hoped to see a little more in the way of mechanics, something to sink my teeth into better (pardon the pun). Lighting is lacking in certain scenes and some of the visuals weren’t to my liking (a personal preference). A few chunks of the dialogue felt stiff and there were a few too many unnatural uses of Hunter’s name in nearly every conversation. Some of his erratic behavior was undoubtedly fitting, though equally as frustrating and hard to understand at the business end of things. More of a shared approach to the inner workings of Volakas and his men would’ve given me something more to latch onto (pardon the secondary pun… I’ve really got to stop that haha). Hunter is still definitely worth a look and if you’re a fan of this brand of Horror/Thriller I think you’ll potentially get even more of a kick out of it than I did. You can check out the official trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!
My rating for “Hunter” is 5.5/10