Manhunt (2008)

Norwegian horror has, over the past few years, firmly cemented itself as a serious player for delivering heavy hitters. Examples of this include Cold Prey and Dead Snow. Delving into native folklore and beliefs has paid off with horror/fantasy films such as Thale and the critically acclaimed Troll Hunter. The regions growing reputation for heavy, realistic gore has set a high benchmark. The question is can Patrik Syversen’s Manhunt live up to the bill?

Manhunt is nothing we haven’t seen before plot wise. It’s the summer of 1974, and before she leaves for college, Camilla (Henriette Bruusgaard) wants to spend her last weekend hiking in the woods with her nearest and dearest. This includes best friend Mia (Nini Bull Robsahm), her altogether oblivious to anything Brother Jorgen (Jorn-Bjorn Fuller-Gee), and Camilla’s possessive boyfriend Roger (Lasse Valdal). Whilst taking a pit stop at a local roadside café, Roger repeatedly insults the locals. Little does he know, these locals are sadistic hunters, and soon enough, the quartet find themselves in the woods, in a deadly game of cat and mouse where they are the prey.

Although Manhunt has a short running time (78 minutes), and has a relatively slow start, when it gets into its stride, it successfully balances suspense, and believability with incredibly graphic and detailed violence. This is a difficult thing to do, as more often than not, the more extreme levels of gore and violence you add to a film, the less believable it becomes. This is not the case with Manhunt. The air of suspense and a genuinely palpable threat posed to this unwary group is reminiscent to the suffering of Kelly Reilly’s character in Eden Lake; and it is in this area, Manhunt truly thrives.

The acting performances are relatively solid throughout. You hate Roger because you are supposed to, and sympathise with Jorgen, because he is the everyman, and reacts how most people would in the given situation. The outstanding performance however comes from Henriette Bruusgaard’s portrayal Camilla. It’s a true trial over adversity story, and she acts the part fantastically.

The soundtrack throughout is virtually non-existent. This adds to the suspense, and gives the forest a sense of character in its own right. Too often do soundtracks unsubtly dictate what you should be feeling in a given scene; Manhunt leaves this for you to decide and does so triumphantly.

Manhunt is a truly unsettling film, with some brutally violent scenes that will resonate with you long after the credits roll. Sadly, it’s let down by an incredibly short running time, and an almost insultingly predictable plot, exemplified in a ‘twist’ you see coming from the very beginning. What Manhunt sets out to do, it does very well, but it would have been in the films best interest to be brave enough to step out of the mould of predictability.

If you go down to the woods today, don’t expect much of a surprise…

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.