I doubt you’ll see a more gruesome, harrowing, WTF horror film this year than Shawn Linden’s Hunter Hunter, a sly deconstruction of several sub-genres including the wilderness creature feature, breathless survival thriller and serial killer suspense tale. It’s orchestrated around a simple premise that evolves into something not so simple until the final act takes a battering ram to the audience’s nerves and expectations alike and you sit there as the credits roll frantically looking for your heart pills before you slide off the couch in full coronary. Somewhere out in the bush a man (Devon Sawa), his wife (Camille Sullivan) and their daughter (Summer H. Howell) live a rugged, simple life as off the grid fur trapper survivalists. One year a rogue wolf returns to their line and threatens to eat both them and their livelihood unless they can track, hunt and kill it before it does the same to them. Only thing is, there’s something way worse than wolves out in those woods, something each family member will come face to face with in a series of white knuckle horror sequences that generate true suspense thanks to nervy, close quarters editing, tension soaked acting from all especially Sullivan and a spooky, atmospherically earthy score by Kevin Cronin. Most of the film is a clever blend of chills, dark humour, scenery and mystery… until that ending rolls around and it goes completely berserk, hog-wild, deranged and etches a fucked up, primally violent conclusion into the viewer’s psyche. Not many films have the big ol’ nuts to pull an ending like this off, but this one does it with grinding, cheerless yet stylish confidence set to a soundtrack song I can’t find on google, but it’s a cool one. Director Linden is responsible for one of my favourite hidden gem films, a metaphysical, Dark City-esque noir from circa 2007 called Nobody, and I always wondered what he’d follow it up with, if ever. Hunter is a lean, mean, bleak, pitilessly cruel picture in all the best ways, and quite the effective, aesthetically pleasing horror film. Just bring your barf bag and your anxiety meds and you’re all set.