Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #337
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 4 January 2008 (Norway)
Sub-Genre: Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: Norway
Running Time: 75 minutes
Director: Patrik Syversen
Producer: Torleif Hauge
Screenplay: Nini Bull Robsahm, Patrik Syversen
Special Effects: Kai Kolstad Rødseth
Visual Effects: Otto Thorbjørnsen
Cinematography: Håvard Andre Byrkjeland
Score: Simon Boswell
Editing: Veslemøy B. Langvik
Studio: Euforia Film, Fender Film
Distributor: Euforia Film (Norway)
Stars: Henriette Bruusgaard, Jørn Bjørn Fuller Gee, Lasse Valdal, Nini Bull Robsahm, Janne Beate Bønes, Trym Hagen, Kristina Leganger Aaserud, Helge Sveen, Jeppe Beck Laursen Erlend Vetleseter, Jorunn Kjellsby, Martin Slaatto, Kristofer Hivju, Gudmund Groven
Suggested Audio Candy
David A. Hess “Wait For The Rain”
1974. It was the year that Richard Nixon became the first ever US president to resign, India became the sixth nuclear power, Bud Abbott died, the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl, Patti Smith released Hey Joe which is widely considered to be the first ever punk rock single, and Stephen King wrote Carrie. Among the great films launched in that year were Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles and Tobe Hooper unleashed a particularly nasty little exploitation flick called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m fairly assured that the majority of you reading will be particularly familiar with that one.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a cautionary tale of sorts. As well as scaring audience senseless, it schooled us on three potent travel dont’s. Firstly, freewheeling to a remote location far from the beaten track in a rickety camper van is not advisable. Secondly, when doing so, rubbing the locals up the wrong way is a very bad idea. Finally, picking up potentially unhinged hitchhikers en route is just asking for trouble, no matter how much leg they flash you from the roadside. Presumably the news hadn’t quite reached Norway yet.
Norwegian horror/fantasy cinema has seen something of a resurgence over the past few years. Among its most precious exports have been Roar Uthaug’s Cold Prey, Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow, Aleksander Nordaas’ Thale, and André Øvredal’s globally recognized behemoth Troll Hunter. In 2008 they also had a stab at the backwoods slasher flick and, all things considered, they did a pretty good job too. Manhunt, or Rovdyr to use its authentic regional title, is the full-length feature debut of Patrik Syversen, who later went on to direct The Descent-inspired Prowl in 2010.
Manhunt is thoroughly bereft of anything whatsoever resembling originality. Some critics would automatically regard this as a green light for damnation but I never got into this game looking to be some critic. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll take originality if and when it is conceived. Should a film choose to play the homage card and be disinterested with pushing the envelope then, provided it doesn’t suck ass, that’s all good with Keeper. Besides, over three decades on, Hooper’s free-for-all still has the ability to steal the last remaining oxygen from my lungs and terrifies me today almost as much as it did when I was ten; so bring it on Syversen, do your countrymen proud.
The moment the film raids our senses with its tantalizing opener, it wears its influences clearly on its sleeve. The distressed grindhouse visuals call to mind Hooper’s magnum opus, as does the minimal sound design, and it is not coincidental that it is set in 1974. As for our four ill-fated teens, their camper van may well be the one discarded in Texas after Leatherface redecorated it with Franklin’s gizzards. Any of you familiar with the term “red means danger?” Our group consist of Camilla (Henriette Bruusgaard), who is looking to spend her last weekend before leaving for college hiking in the woods, best friend Mia (Nini Bull Robsahm), her passive brother Jorgen (Jorn-Bjorn Fuller-Gee), and Camilla’s somewhat overbearing boyfriend Roger (Lasse Valdal).
After giving the locals encouragement to wish them all the rotten luck in the world on their travels, courtesy of Roger’s alpha outburst after Camille activates a spiteful straggler in the restroom; it’s time for a quick introduction to our semi-demented hitchhiker and back to the faltering van like the Norwegian A-Team, only minus the hench black dude. Within minutes of hitting the skids, Syversen makes his other inspirations known. Wes Craven’s infamous exploitation flick, The Last House on The Left, and John Boorman’s equally controversial Deliverance landed within a month of one another in 1972 and both are clear motivation to the Norwegian. Again, no complaints here.
After a vicious ambush concludes with any survivors being knocked unconscious and deposited deep into the woods, Manhunt hits a stride which it upholds for the remainder of its slender 75 minute running time. A horn in sounded and hunting season is officially underway from hereon in as their game-faced assailants look to find a suitable replacement for the moose head hanging above their log burners. There’s plentiful running, just as much hiding, a smattering of bickering, and each time that horn is blown, some fairly grim delivering.
The performances are solid across the board and in Bruusgaard’s Camille, Syversen finds his own Sally Hardesty. She is superb, displaying her exhaustive range of histrionics while exhibiting all the pluck and resolve that make for a memorable heroine. While relatively short, every minute is made to count, and its mixture of low-hanging suspense, palpable threat, and unremitting violence, makes for a decent homage to seventies exploitation. It may not reinvent the wheel but, when you consider that the wheel originated circa 3,500 B.C, haven’t we seen enough variations by now? As long as it turns right? Manhunt trundles by effortlessly and has the smarts not to push its journey for another fifteen minutes as that may well have been pushing it.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Our bøtte runneth over. That is Norwegian for bucket; see, every day is a new opportunity to learn. The brutalities are lovingly realized, with good old-fashioned black blood flowing freely whenever facilitated. Injury detail is the order of the day, with a particularly gnarled close range shotgun blast to the metatarsal being the effortless standout. Expect barbed wire, fox traps, multiple stabbings, and even a little novice archery for all you Rambo III enthusiasts.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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