It seems that often times, especially in regard to the thriller genre, we as an audience tend to expect the most extravagant story lines and plot twists, demanding more and more originality and more climactic events that will truly shock us. But not every film can be like that. After all, it’s virtually impossible to completely reinvent the wheel when it comes to stories and surprises; everything has already been written. That’s where film has an advantage: even if the plot is familiar, editing, setting, and character dimension can step in and add that much-desired twist that will keep one eager to see how everything will be brought to a conclusion. That being said, director David Raymond is able to achieve such a feat in his debut feature Night Hunter.
The film follows Marshall (Henry Cavill), a stoic, weather-beaten cop who is on the hunt for a serial rapist and murderer. This is after the discovery of the body of a young girl, frozen, stripped of her clothing, and baring evidence on her wrists of being held against her will. Still in the initial stages of the investigation, Marshall crosses paths with Cooper (Ben Kingsley) and Lara (Eliana Jones), a peculiar self-proclaimed vigilante duo who lure sexual predators online into meeting in person in order to administer their own sense of justice — justice they firmly believe the police to be too unwilling to deliver. When Cooper fails to pick up Lara from one of their pre-planned times of trickery and she is abducted, he ends up crashing his car in an attempt to pursue her captor and is arrested by the police. Technologically capable, Cooper has Lara wearing a tracker on each of her ‘dates’ and, upon convincing Marshall of the imminent danger that his associate is in, officers follow her signal to a grand, yet empty mansion situated on the outskirts of town. In the basement, Marshall finds more young girls trapped in prison cell-like rooms before apprehending the alleged perpetrator who is behind the murder of the first girl and who is easily overpowered. Enter criminal profiler Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), whose job is to get inside the mind of suspect Simon (Brendan Fletcher) in order to discover why these girls were taken. What appears to be another case of deviant sexual dominance on the surface, quickly spirals into a twisted game clouded in madness and past torment. Rachel is sure that Simon has multiple identities, and her insistence propels her in a direction to which there is little happiness in sight and she, Marshall, Cooper and Lara become personal targets in Simon’s line of fire as well as the unknown figure who is aiding and abetting all his crimes.
Shot on location in Winnipeg Manitoba, the dreary Canadian setting lends itself well to this chilling serial killer drama as a subtle piece of characterisation. The external landscape accurately mirrors both the inner turmoil facing down the film’s protagonists as well as establishing a sense of foreboding that defines the grim nature of the illicit activities that is the subject matter. Though Night Hunter is by no means an award-winning piece of work, not every film needs to be; rather, it is simply what it was intended to be: a darkly enjoyable film. The cast are compelling in their performances, burdened by the weight of various aspects of police procedure, yet they carry on. Though the character of Marshall is a typical hard-boiled cop with loose familial ties and frequently favours intimidation and brute force over intellectual means of problem solving, Cavill manages to remain convincingly resigned here and there when Marshall questions his own dedication to the job over that of his wife and daughter. Marshall’s paternal protectiveness is shown in sporadic flashes throughout, and these brief moments of humanity ground the film nicely. As for Daddario, she brings an underappreciated air of freshness and innocence to the thriller genre, and her character is a suitable foil to Cavill’s, able to see Simon as a man in need of help rather than just a nutcase. Over the course of the hour-and-forty-minute run time, each character we follow is given the opportunity to act out of turn, reminding us that even the heroic possess qualities of an antihero.
Though this is Raymond’s first crack at directing, he is able to piece together an overall satisfactory film, one that is a pleasant choice should the weather be blustery and you wish nothing more than to have a night at home. One particularly commendable decision in terms of writing, is that, though it is clear the characters have baggage (as all Hollywood cops must), Raymond’s story only touches upon it, as opposed to bringing it to the forefront of the mystery at hand. Work and home are established as (relatively) separate domains which is uncommon in this particular genre. As the story progresses, audience members may be able to conjure up hypotheses of their own as to who is behind such deplorable behaviour, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, we want to guess the answer. We want to feel that sense of triumph in having “known the ending all along”. In a more critical lens however, the motivations behind the killer’s actions can be muddled amongst all the action and blubbering of the ostensibly psychotic suspect.
Nonetheless, Night Hunter is a commendable effort by Raymond to emerge into the movie scene.
Night Hunter is out on Digital now
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95