Death Hunt opens as a young TJ (Riley Lewis) is taking some target practice. His father explains to him how to calculate the effect of the wind on the bullet as he shifts his aim from the paper target to his real target, a man tied to a tree.
Years later Ray (Omar Tucci) is in rural Crawford County trying to get the locals to sell their farms so he can develop the land. Mayor Dolan (Michael Coughlan, The Nights Before Christmas, This Was America) seems to be on board, but the townsfolk aren’t overly enthusiastic and the meeting doesn’t go well. Needing to recover he hops in his Trans Am where his mistress Brooke (Marlene Malcolm, Dark Side of the Ring) is waiting for him and they head off for a weekend getaway. They don’t get far before they’re pulled over by a particularly hostile cop (Greg Johnston).
Death Hunt being the type of film it is, it should come as no surprise that Officer Unfriendly, Gary to his friends, is in cahoots with the now-grown TJ (Terry McDonald, Sixty Minutes to Midnight) and a third man, Rick (Rick Amsbury, Psycho Goreman, Cult of Nightmares).
Director Neil Mackay (Sixty Minutes to Midnight, Battleground) and co-writer Sean McAulay use the first half-hour to give the viewer a quick trip through the hicksploitation handbook. Unfriendly locals and evil cops victimizing city folk who should have known better than to venture beyond the limits of suburbia. We’ve seen this more than a few times before.
I know I’ve seen it enough times that I was actually surprised that the island the trio take their captives to wasn’t full of the barely human results of generations of inbreeding. Rather than taking a wrong turn, Death Hunt turns into another variation on The Most Dangerous Game. And that actually might have been a wrong turn.
We know almost nothing about the backgrounds of the villains beyond the fact that TJ was taught to kill at a young age. There’s a Confederate flag in their cabin and they have odd moral values. They’re shocked and offended when Brooke accuses them of planning to rape her. After all, they’re married men, killing is OK, but cheating on their wives would be evil. Similarly, all we really know about Brooke and Ray is that Ray is rich, married, and it was his wife that introduced them.
Why does the lack of characterization matter so much? The hunters have been doing this for years, although at times you have to wonder why they still make stupid mistakes. But we have no reason to believe either Ray or Brooke has any military training or survival skills. Unlike say Army of One where we know our heroine can take care of herself, Brooke’s transformation into a female Rambo comes out of nowhere.
And indeed, Death Hunt’s final act sees her raiding her pursuers’ cabin for supplies, setting ambushes, and making using their own weapons, as well as her fists and feet, against them. The action scenes are well enough done that overall the film works. The chase scenes and shootout are better than similar scenes in a lot of low-budget films. The blood, explosions, and muzzle flashes don’t look as cartoonish as in a lot of those films either.
The seeming ineptitude of the seasoned hunters and the unexplained prowess of their intended victims does hurt the film. As do a few factual errors that will be obvious to many viewers. But Death Hunt, while flawed, is still a decent way to kill an evening.
Uncork’d Entertainment has released Death Hunt on DVD as well as on VOD and Digital platforms. You can their Facebook page for more details. Evolutionary Films will release Death Hunt in the UK on August 29th.