Starring: Ismael Merlo, Alfredo Mayo, José María Prada
Director: Carlos Saura
Running Time: 91 mins
The Hunt (La caza) is a Spanish film about a group of friends who go out into the desert for a rabbit hunt, but stay out in the wilderness that they begin to lose their minds.
With an unsettling atmosphere from the start and a striking (if not arguably excessive) desire to go to some rather dark and violent depths, The Hunt is an incredibly uneasy watch. However, while it impresses early on with that atmosphere, it fails to really keep the tension building throughout, and although it finishes on a high note, the journey to get there is far from exceptional.
Let’s start off with one of the more shocking things about this movie, and that’s its tendency to show certain things that some may not necessarily be able to stomach. The film wasn’t particularly favoured by the Spanish authorities at the time of release, but what viewers in the present will likely be most shocked by is footage of real animal hunting that, while effective for the atmosphere, is a little on the gruesome side at times.
Of course, your response to seeing real scenes of animals being killed is entirely dependent on your own views and experiences, but when it comes to this film, it’s a rather nasty cinematic tool that’s used to good effect at first, but it unfortunately goes a little too far in the end, and through the film’s middle portion – where the tension and uneasiness is at its weakest – the hunting shots feel more gratuitous than genuinely there to further the atmosphere.
With that said, there’s no denying how unsettling this movie is at the start, and along with the strikingly gruesome hunting imagery, the oppressive heat of the desert feels really strong throughout, with director Carlos Saura doing a great job to pull you into an eerily isolated and seemingly dangerous surrounding.
The problem is that, while the movie starts off in strong fashion with that uneasy atmosphere, it doesn’t keep that intensity and tension up all the way through, and rather than taking a leaf out of the book of the likes of Death Of A Cyclist, it struggles to engross you further and further in the story as things build to a crescendo.
Instead, the descent of the main characters into madness isn’t really striking or bold enough, and although there are unsettling and uncomfortable conversations that certainly push the feel of the situation in that direction, the film’s slow pace really takes away from what should have been more of a look into an increasingly manic scenario, building and building towards a shocking finale.
It reminds me a lot of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre which, with a very similar premise, also didn’t manage to really pin down the descent into madness just right, lacking the boldness to really push the boat out and show the characters truly losing their minds, which was the biggest disappointment for me here.
Overall, I liked The Hunt at first, with its piercingly unsettling atmosphere and striking (if not often excessively gruesome) imagery. With that said, the film doesn’t have the consistent intensity and sheer mania to really impress all the way through, failing to keep up that strikingly uneasy nature while building genuine tension, meaning that it all comes across as a little underwhelming come the finale, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.