Manhunt (aka Rovdyr, 2008) Movie Review

Norwegian horror has been thriving of late, with a number of high profile hits such as “Cold Prey” and the zombie Nazi splatter comedy “Dead Snow”. Further adding to the country’s growing reputation for gore is “Rovdyr” from director Patrik Syversen, who had previously shown his dedication to the genre through a series of well received shorts. A gritty, 1970s style slice of backwoods terror that recalls “Deliverance” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, the film has now been released in the UK on DVD via Metrodome, under the somewhat unimaginative, though not entirely inappropriate title “Manhunt”.

The setup might politely be described as being generic – in 1974, a group of young fun seekers travel deep into the Norwegian forests in a camper van. As might be expected, a stop off at a roadside diner lands them in an argument with some backwards locals, after which they decide to pick up a hitchhiker, a troubled woman who is keen to get on the road. They don’t get far before being run off the road by a nasty bunch of hunters, who proceed to stalk and kill them for gruesome sport. Sounds familiar?

All things considered, such cynicism is largely unfair, since “Manhunt” is a film which wears its heart on its grubby sleeve. Indeed, director Syversen handles the proceedings almost like a sick love letter to the more degenerate horrors of the 1970s, even going as far as to include the instantly recognisable theme “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Wes Craven’s classic “Last House on the Left” (also heard recently in Eli Roth’s throwback “Cabin Fever”). This is of course by no means a bad thing, especially for fans of the form, and the film certainly comes close to emulating both the look and feel of the period originals, with grimy, scratchy film stock, shaky camera work and an unsettling air of low-budget realism. The woods make for an ominous, fittingly primal setting, adding a touch of atmosphere and a survivalist aspect.

More importantly, the film also serves up the gore goods, with plenty of bloody fun, including explosive bullet wounds, dismemberments and steaming piles of entrails. The death scenes have a genuinely sadistic air, with Syversen lingering upon the gruesome details and giving a real sense of the hunters’ twisted enjoyment of the killings. Since the characters are the usual brand of cookie cutter cannon fodder that tend to populate this kind of film, there is little choice but to root for the nominal bad guys, who though lacking in any kind of slasher film gimmickry, do at least have the decency to go about their work with a certain efficiency. This does of course implicate the viewer in the onscreen carnage, giving the film an uncomfortably voyeuristic edge. Syversen’s direction is tight and solid throughout, keeping the action moving at a breathless pace during the admirably short running time, and the film is well made by genre standards.

All of this adds up to one of the better 1970s rehashes of recent years, and “Manhunt” marks a welcome return to stripped down genre film making, focusing on good old fashioned gore and tension rather than being self consciously clever or needlessly flashy. One of the few films to successfully channel the spirit of the time, it should certainly be enjoyed by horror fans looking to get back to bloody basics.

Patrik Syversen (director) / Nini Bull Robsahm, Patrik Syversen (screenplay)
CAST: Kristina Leganger Aaserud … Jenta
Janne Beate Bønes … Renate
Henriette Bruusgaard … Camilla
Jørn Bjørn Fuller Gee … Jørgen
Trym Hagen … Gutt i tre
Kristofer Hivju … Mann på kaféen

Buy Manhunt on DVD