Call Of The Hunter (2010)

Call of the Hunter is bloody good fun. Despite it’s low budget feel, it is well acted, expertly paced and slyly scripted. It is a compelling and amusing British comedy-horror.

A film crew set out to make a documentary about the legend of Herne the Hunter, a mythical huntsman who haunts Herongate Woods. Sceptical and unafraid by the twisting myth, the crew stays at the creepy manor house of a recently murdered Herne fanatic. But quickly they realize something is seriously wrong with the house and the woods surrounding it. As people start dying in a variety of bizarre ways, the filmmakers find themselves in a fight for survival against a foe who’s had over six hundred years to practice his hunting skills… and they’re his newest prey.

What could’ve been a lovingly crafted historical Herne-based horror film is luckily a comedy horror where Herne plays second fiddle to character and dialogue, a thankful result that creates an entertaining film rather than a potentially didactically boring one.

Call of the Hunter is funny. In true British horror style it is witty, sarcastic, cheeky and self-knowing. The majority of the humour comes from perverse Brummy Dan (Michael Instone), whose constant quest to sexually harass anything female provides the greatest laughs. For Call of the Hunter, laughter is essential as the horror side of the movie doesn’t greatly scare or convince. In places it is tense, in others genuinely disturbing, but the direction and editing means that the majority of the action scenes are confused or lacking essential clarity. Some of the continuity is startlingly odd too (it goes from day to night in a matter of seconds at one point), but this doesn’t greatly affect the film’s flow as the more panicked, violent moments are often accompanied by a rocking soundtrack that is very loud, brash and pacy – a great addition to Danny S. Elliot’s subtle score, which rarely intrudes.

There are some stand-out performances in Call of the Hunter. Michael Instone shines as the cocky Midlander Dan, whose misogynistic arrogance is oddly charming. He is funny with a touch of humanity that makes any screen time with him in a pleasure to watch. He is essentially our protagonist, along with Tamsin (played beautifully by Sarah Paul, who is surely destined for greatness), the two members of the crew who are the most grounded and realistically portrayed. This has a lot to do with Stephen Gawtry’s script, which is keen and sharp and set at a speedy pace that rarely sags. Don McCorkindale also adds a hefty sense of gravitas to the piece as narrator and historian Ralph, a man whose every word seems important and utterly compelling. Even the smaller characters work well, especially Jonathan Hansler’s producer Max, who oozes a hilariously creepy sleaze during his tragically brief appearance. The rest of the cast do a good job with what they’ve been given too, with only Angelique Fernadez’s Gabriella really feeling uncomfortable to watch. She comes across as overacted and stilted in places, making it awkward when she appears in a scene. This is a minor quibble, however, as the rest of the strong cast cover this awkwardness well.

It is distressing to think that films like Lesbian Vampire Killers have a budget 100 times the size of Call of the Hunter and fail miserably to portray the same character and good sense of humour that Call does so well. Call’s budget does limit it to some extent, but not to the point that it stops being enjoyable. Anthony Straeger’s direction is tight, smart and ingenious at times – playing well with the lighting and the ability to create menace out of nothing but the darkness. It is a good length and rarely bores, moving plot and character along at a solid, pleasing speed.

Call of the Hunter is fun, funny and occasionally bloody, featuring a kicking soundtrack and a swift pace that constantly keeps you interested. This is a thoroughly enjoyable British comedy-horror.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

5 Comments on “Call Of The Hunter”

  1. Nick Gregan says:

    Although I agree with you in the most part -it is a cracking film – I think you’re being picky with the continuity as my 3 friends didn’t notice the small lapses. I think on the whole, with the incredibly small budget Anthony Straeger and his cast and crew have done a brilliant job in producing an original British film that is crisp, witty and scary all at the same time. Imagine what they could do with a big budget.

    • Scullion says:

      Too true Nick, but a big budget doesn’t necessarily mean quality (look at all the reviews rated below 4 stars… there’s a lot of money pumped into that dross)

      I reviewed COTH as I reviewed any other film, with a critical eye as well as the eye of an avid horror fan, and this means specifically looking out for continuity errors as well as other things. As I said, that sort of thing is a minor quibble in an otherwise greatly entertaining horror comedy.

      Rest assured, the cast and crew of COTH can be satisfied to see that their film sits amongst many horrors I consider fantastic fun – it’s been rated with an equal star rating to the likes of Night Watch, The Mist, Poltergeist and Dead Snow (all which I really adore… well, apart from Poltergeist, maybe. Time hurt that film badly…).

      Perhaps in the future we’ll see exactly what Mister Straeger and friends can do with a large budget. Fingers crossed for greatness.

      Anyway, thanks for reading the review – nice to see it’s made enough of an impact for you to comment on it!

  2. Dear Scullion. Thank you for a very thoughtful critique. I understand your “pickyness”. You’re an aficionado of the genre and have rights. But you’ve highlighted, once again, the parlous state the British film industry is in. Why isn’t there a pool of money to enable committed, not necessarily young, film makers to launch their ideas on to the screen? Why must directors, crew and actors have to forego their professional expectations and aspirations to take enormous risks to further their careers? I know that a lot of the “stars” in the film firmament do take chances on projects like ‘Call of The Hunter’, but they are established and can afford it. I echo Nick Gregan’s sentiments but also laud your comments as intelligent, worthy and totally acceptable…as far as I’m concerned. The one piece of yours I endorse wholeheartedly is your praise of Anthony Straeger’s direction, he’s a powerhouse and destined for great things. Keep ‘horroring’ m’boy. And thank you. Don

  3. ANTHONY says:

    Just to say, in hindsight, many thanks for your review of Call of the Hunter. I find it very accurate and a very fair judgment of the movie. It is hoped to produce an initial limited edition run of the PAL version by the end of January. Will let you know when it is available.

  4. jay stewart says:

    Very good indie flick to be sure, I noticed in another another blog, or maybe this one about the split screen…I liked it. Every film has its issues and COTH is no exception, I would have preferred less trash metal. But hay that’s just personal opinion. If you like Horror and I do, then this must surely go on your list of ones to watch.

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