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Manhunt (2008) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000138458
Added by: Michael Campbell
Added on: 5/1/2011 19:50
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    Review for Manhunt (2008)

    6 / 10

    Manhunt (2008)


    Manhunt is a little-seen Norwegian film that emerged a couple of years ago on the back of a smattering of positive notices in it's native land. Despite critical plaudits however, it has remained something of a low key oddity in the UK. Horror aficionados will be more than familiar with the flimsy concept. In 1974, a group of teens head off on a holiday into a remote area. before it all goes horribly wrong. Taking a stop at a diner along the way, they quickly establish that there's something rather odd about the behaviour of the locals, who they manage to immediately irritate (of course!), before picking up a hitch-hiker whose current situation isn't quite what it appears… It goes without saying that this results in a bitter cocktail of blood splattering, and the obligatory young lady being pursued through woodland scenery.

    Hardly ground-breaking material then. From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to recent French Pseudo-slasher Frontiers (2007, Xavier Gens), we've been bombarded with stories such as this one since the early Seventies. While Tobe Hooper's seminal Chainsaw Massacre remains the most infamous example of the form, many of the staples of the genre are more obviously apparent in such works as Deliverance and Last House on the Left ( both 1972). Rape and revenge are the obvious ingredients in such a recipe, but in truth, Manhunt neither begins to approach those works in terns of either quality or perversity.

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    Last House was a clumsy and occasionally ridiculous excursion into exploitation cinema at it's most raw. In spite of some nonsensical comedy, and frequent technical issues, it remains an affecting, powerful work. Wes Craven did a superlative job at presenting a claustrophobic, suffocating tone, even in setting the majority of his film in broad, stark daylight. Manhunt replicates that contrast and unsettling juxtaposition, without the extreme, sexualised terror. Likewise, Deliverance delved deeper into survival territory, straying from the horror somewhat, but stoically remained cold and threatening. Patrick Syverson's picture increasingly touches on Deliverance's quest for self-perseverance, but is neither as philosophical, nor to be honest.. anywhere nearly as electrifying.
    Manhunt does manage to exude a wonderful period charm, a strong-point that serves the actors extremely well. The locations are superb, and the little touches, such as the detail at the rest-stop, and mini-van really add to the experience.

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    At a scant 75 or so minutes, Manhunt is not a time-consuming piece… something that works in it's favour. Often, the problem with cinematic ventures into slasher territory, is that they are over-extended, interminable bores. The same cannot be said of this effort, it truly moves at a snappy pace, barely allowing the viewer a moment to truly feel comfortable. The scenes with the hitch-hiker clearly recall those in Texas Chainsaw, but come and go in such an efficient manner that they stubbornly refuse to overstay their welcome. Proceedings at this point become swiftly desperate , and the sudden, decisive violence impacts enough that we're immediately propelled into the terrifying scenario. Graphically, all of this isn't as stomach-churning as one imagines it could be. At the same time, that modicum of restraint does make the violence a great deal more effective. On occasion, it's brutal indeed, without ever entering the excesses of Frontiers.
    As with much modern horror material though, the impact of the cast's situation is greatly diminished due to the general unlikeable nature of the bunch. It's an issue that filmmakers are seemingly oblivious to, and for the most part, refuse to address. It's a shame, because the lack of care in this respect keeps one at arm's length from genuinely becoming emotionally invested in the plot. Commercially, this need not always be an issue of course. After all, The remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre typified the lack of decency or charm in collectives of young people present in modern Horror cinema, yet still convinced audiences worldwide. Manhunt though, without the originality, or the genuine invention, really could do with some strongly written roles that compensate. In this regard, no amount rather pretty, stripped-down shots of the forest can really have much effect, if what happens within them fails to provoke much emotion. In short, viewers will find this assortment of protagonists largely unsympathetic, and that vital component is one of the key secrets in transforming any interesting horror picture into something truly gripping.

    Audio and Visual

    Presented in 16:9, Manhunt looks as sharp as one could expect from a picture intentionally given the gritty, grimy treatment. Viewers would be unwise to expect a crystal-clear image, as this one is intentionally saturated, and very much resembles a re-mastered Video Nasty. I suspect however, this is the whole point, and can be taken as a compliment.
    Sound meanwhile, is Stereo 2.0 or Dolby Digital 5.1, and is generally fine. Amplified wailing and puncturing sound effects are all correct and present, although perhaps more could have been made in the capturing of woodland background noises.

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    It's a pity that this release is entirely devoid of extras. A making of feature, and some input from the crew as to where they drew their influences from and why, would be very much welcome. Manhunt is a transparent pat on the pack to a whole era of filmmaking, therefore a celebration of those pictures would have been wholly appropriate.


    While the UK DVD of this is a criminally bare-bones effort, the film itself certainly merits the attention of horror fans, particularly those familiar with the era in which it is set. Whether or not viewers regard it as a tribute of sorts, or a mere rip-off is entirely up to the individual, but I certainly feel that the more discerning amongst us can feel the lovingly crafted, unapologetic admiration for the work of Wes Craven and his Seventies contemporary. At the same time, the lightweight, somewhat basic script lacks the impact of recent, post-modern Survival horrors such as Haute Tension (2004, Alexandre Aja), or the wacky barmy charm of The Ordeal (2004, Fabrice Du Welz)
    Widely available for much less than it's original retail price, it's certainly the sort of film that one would enjoy on a rainy Saturday night alone. More than that, Manhunt has a fundamental, nihilistic poeticism that some will find warrants repeat viewings. It's not a classic by any means, nor is it especially memorable, but regardless, stands as an intriguing curiosity. For that alone, Manhunt warrants applause.

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