MONSTER HUNTER (2014)
aka DARK WAS THE NIGHT
Directed by Jack Heller
After a race horse goes missing at a local farm and strange three-clawed hoof-prints appear in the snow throughout town leading into the woods, Sheriff Paul Shields suspects foul play from either a stranger in town or youth pranksters. However, when bodies are found in the woods, Paul is forced to believe the local Native American legend of a disgruntled spirit living in the woodland. With a taste for blood, it looks like the mysterious fast and deadly creature will have to be stopped for good if the town is to survive.
Monster horror thriller MONSTER HUNTER centres around Sheriff Paul Shields played by Lost star Kevin Durand. Paul isn’t your normal bold and brave sheriff. He has a serious amount of emotional baggage he’s dealing with after the loss of his son Tim. His wife and other young son Adam have moved out of the family home, staying with his mother-in-law, but no matter how much Adam and wife Susan want to reunite their family, Paul is struggling to come to terms with the loss, blaming himself for the fatal accident. The emotional guilt and upset Paul experiences doesn’t help matters when the townsfolk look to him for guidance when their town is overrun by hoof prints. Frightened, the residents want answers but unfortunately neither Paul nor his deputy Donny (Lukas Haas), from New York, can shed any light upon the apparent creature terrorising their neighbourhood.
What I really enjoyed about MONSTER HUNTER is that it brings characters who feel real with depth and emotion that the viewer can easily invest in. It’s not so much about the monster but the effect its presence has on a town though, as the film progresses, we get to see more and more fleeting glimpses of the monster before the full reveal towards the end. CGI is used to create the monster in full view shots but for close-up work, where the monster is hands-on with the human characters, practical effects in the form of a costume is used. The blend of both styles works rather well and makes you curious as to what the beast looks like ahead of its full reveal. The tension and suspense crafted before this moment is cleverly played, dripfeeding snippets and allowing the fear to gradually build.
It may be no Troll Hunter, but I have a soft spot for MONSTER HUNTER. It’s well performed, particularly by Kevin Durand, Lukas Haas, Bianca Kajlich and Ethan Khusidman, the latter two who star as Sheriff Paul’s wife Susan and son Adam. They each bring a personality to their character and meaning to the film, one which feels authentic and true, and unlike a lot of other movies, their resolve isn’t completely rosy nor is it cheesy and over-the-top. It’s played with such subtlety that you can actually believe this town is being plagued by a powerful beastie and that is where your imagination can run wild.
If you like creature features, MONSTER HUNTER is worth a watch though overall expect to see more drama than monster.