Writer, director, producer, cinematographer and editor Ti West's ultra low-budget follow-up to his debut feature, THE ROOST (2005), is a stripped-down story of hunters who become the hunted.
Scruffy New York City pals Reggie (Reggie Cunningham), Sean (Sean Reid) and Ray (Ray Sullivan) get together for a day-long hunting trip in Delaware, though it quickly becomes clear that only Sean knows anything about hunting. The outing is basically an excuse for them to get away from their girlfriends and drink beer in the great outdoors. Sean supplies the guns bolt-action rifles with scopes walks them through weapons-handling 101, hands them their orange safety vests and leads the way through the woods. There's some ribbing and a lot of walking; Reggie actually spots a deer, but fails to take a shot that's the cue to break out the beer and rehash the nonevent. And then Sean strolls over to a cliff to urinate and drops, nailed by a bullet between the eyes. What began as a lazy day of slacking in the woods becomes a desperate fight for survival that pits a pair of woefully unprepared city boys against a sociopathic sharpshooter.
Much of the film unfolds in real time, and for the first half hour West makes the nervy decision to show what hunting is really like: a lot of standing around and waiting. He also shoots long sequences without dialogue, letting the sound of running water and rustling branches dominate the soundtrack. But stick with it: Once the story goes DELIVERANCE (1972), it's a nail-biter, and the minimalist aesthetic is an asset rather than a liability the handheld follows shots that lend a you-are-there authenticity. The film is all panicky anxiety and no frills, right down to the grim, 11th-hour cameo appearance by indie filmmaker Larry Fessenden (HABIT, THE LAST WINTER), who served as producer.
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