Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Hunted – review

Director: Robert Chapin

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

The Hunted was a long standing web series (the franchise’s webpage is here), which as well as creating content actively encouraged fan content as well. There was a kickstarter (that I unfortunately missed) to create a feature film of the series.

I may have been oblivious to the kickstarter but, many years ago, I had signed up to the shows email newsletter and, out of the blue, came an email advertising said feature going live on Vimeo. I contacted Robert Chapin and he was good enough to let me access a screener. He did offer a qualification, however, “And keep in mind, the film is about as indie as you can get. The budget is less than the price of a used car, but we managed to score some top notch cast and crew.” But, you know what indie and budget can work as well as anything.

office raid
We start with a Hula Girl on a dashboard. A van drives through the streets of LA with an eclectic group of passengers in the back of the vehicle. The van crashes through a security gate and comes to a halt. Harry (David Lain Baker) the driver complains that they look like the Village People – to which there is a comment about giving them time to change. However, as Harry sees it, there was no time. He has one of the group hack an electronic lock into the office building that the parking area connects to and tells the group to be quiet. They enter the building.

female vampire
Mikey (Josh Gill) is on camera – the whole film is from Mikey’s point of view – and starts to speak. That triggers an alarm and suddenly one of the group is pulled through a wall and then thrown back over the corridor and through the adjacent wall. A female vampire strides towards them and the group is just able to break into a room – their goal – and lock the door. Harry suggests that the room is reinforced, buying them time as they try and hack into the vampires’ computer system. Susan (Monique Ganderton, Blood Ties, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days & Twilight: Eclipse) informs them that *he* is here.

David Lain Baker as Harry
There is a comment by Harry that this is a suicide mission (all their missions are suicide missions) and he makes a C4 cross with pencils in for shrapnel (I’ll return to this). There is a chute out of the room for body disposal that Harry suggests as an escape route. The female vampire breaks in and after some tussling Harry plants an axe in her chest – she is immobilised but alive. There is a break towards the corridor but bad vamp (and Susan’s *he*) Dragos (Gary Kasper) steps in to the fray. Harry, Susan and Mikey are the only ones to escape (Mickey with a pencil through a hand due to the C4 explosion).

oh, the dignity
Bob (Robert Chapin) is doing promo in a chicken suit. Despite being the lead actor in the films Vampslayer and Vampslayer II: the Stakening he needs this gig to survive. The gig is not for everyone and his friend Jim (Jim Pirri) storms off due to territory issues and the lack of dignity involved in being a purple muppet. Mikey approaches Bob (and for some reason can’t speak) but shows him some footage and Bob thinks he is getting a call-back for a reality show – the Chosen One.

Thus Bob is drawn into Harry’s machinations. Harry has been looking for the Chosen One, a slayer who holds the fate of humanity in their hands. In this world's lore a bite does not turn, a full draining is needed to do that, but it does make the victim mutate so they are stronger, faster and resilient to damage (Bob's healing factor is off the scale after he is bitten by Susan – who is Harry’s daughter and fully turned). However the victims also act like a beacon for vampires, who can sense that they are bitten.

Vampslayer in action
The vampires too have evolved. They are now immune to garlic (though garlic pills will make a vampire feel unwell as well as disguising a slayer’s scent), stakes to the heart, sunlight and holy water (and presumably any other religious icon). Harry says the only thing that can kill them is a sword he found – but as plenty of other vampires die I’d guess it is any sword and decapitation (I’m guessing the decapitation as, when they die, there is a huge flash of light that hides any such decapitation effect). I said I’d come back to the pencils… on first watch one would assume they are put in the c4 in case of a lucky heart strike… Not so, as stakes don’t work. Harry does stake a vampire later, and put garlic round the neck, and does it simply to hurt them. Eating red meat after being bitten makes one horny, apparently. It was nice to see this tie in with Jure Grando.

Tex Wall as the Lore Master
This is fun. There is no other word for it. Bob, reluctantly at first, leads a ragtag “army” of slayers who are all misfits (and one is not bitten and wants to be bit for romantic reasons). His status as Chosen One is confirmed by homeless guru the Lore Master (Tex Wall) and that character, and performance by Tex Wall, was inspired. The film refuses to take itself seriously and thus any gap in logic can be forgiven. The filmmakers worked around the lack of budget masterfully – for instance obscuring through sfx the vampires’ death. It isn’t perfect, the pacing could be a tad tighter in places for instance, but fans of the web series will really dig this and it is a great starting place for newcomers to the concept. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here and the film can be rented or bought digitally at Vimeo.

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