In an one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn from Norway, Patrik Syversen's Manhunt (Rovdyr) (2008) flies away from the traditional, classic horror of Roar Uthaug's Cold Prey (2006) and Mats Stenberg's Cold Prey 2 (2008). Manhunt epitomizes the current trend in recent horror, where kidnapping is the craze; torture's the trend; and the violence is, to put it lightly, very, very brutal. I cannot really call myself a fan of this genre nor can I say that I'm hostile to it. Greg Mclean's Wolf Creek (2005) kept me engrossed and impressed for its running time, but it was Pascal Laugier's Martyrs (2008) that really raised my eyelids and told me not to write this horror trend off. While not meeting its goal, Martyrs came close to bridging the gap between horror fans on both sides of the torture/kidnapping genre. In addition, Norway has produced two of this decade's best horror films, so let's see if Manhunt accomplishes the hat trick.Set in 1974 with a somewhat foreshadowing song on the radio, four friends have got their van on the road for a trip to the country. Pretty and sweet Camilla (Henriette Bruusgaard) rides shotgun, while her dominating and possessive boyfriend, Roger (Lasse Valdal) drives. Mia (Nini Bull Robsahm, also co-writer) sits in the back and doesn't like the way Roger treats Camilla as shy Jorgen (Jorn-Bjorn Fuller-Gee) sits quietly. Stopping for gas and getting a bite to eat becomes a bad idea: an old bum in a toilet stall gives Camilla a nasty scratch, while the locals in the cafe bark at the city kids. Roger doesn't ignore them and gets in their face. Mia has had it: she cannot stand Roger's treatment of Camilla and his domineering attitude. A young woman, Renate (Janne Beate Bones), squirms in a nearby booth, scared of someone coming or someone already there. Roger offers her a ride, while Mia opposes, but the remaining three reluctantly agree. A short time later on the road, the five try to make a quick stop which becomes a permanent one.With imagery evocative of Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Manhunt's visuals are quite nasty and quite compelling. The film moves frenetically and flies under eighty minutes. Sick still shots punctuate the drama, while quick cuts show some brutal gore. While the gore appears quite disturbing, Syversen can disturb without it. One scene which I wish I wouldn't have seen involves Camilla, her captor, and a shotgun. When the film moves beyond its exposition and into the action, the substantive dialogue ceases: just the characters and their actions. The central location of a forest and its composition of fall colors, such as brown, gold, and light yellow, are soothing alone; but with the images of blood, Camilla running through the forest, and the tense confrontations, the forest imagery gives away. The viewer wants to be lulled peacefully, but Syversen doesn't allow it. Manhunt is a great-looking film. The actresses really standout in this one: Henriette Bruusgaard, as Camilla, is terrific. She creates the sweetest and most lovable character, which Syversen has no problem dragging through hell and back. Janne Beate Bones's role is also quite good, which relies primarily upon her fearful facial expressions and her body language. She conveys everything that her character embodies with her physical actions. Nini Bull Robsahm's Mia is a strong character and well-portrayed. Finally, the director, Patrik Syversen creates quite the creative flick. Manhunt is full of subversive material and ironic twists. Some of his compositions are haunting and his pacing is flawless.
However, Manhunt, overall, overwhelmed me: far too brutal to be enjoyable and not one for a revisit anytime soon. I, however, do quite admire it, as I do Martyrs. However, I think that I learned the essence of the whole torture/kidnapping genre with the first film that I saw. All subsequent ones, some admirable and some terrible, usually leave me cold. I guess that this genre is not supposed to be entertaining, but to be experienced. But yeah, thanks, I'll experience something else.