Directed by Jordan Downey, and written by Kevin Stewart and Jordan Downey, The Head Hunter feels like the Witcher meets Vikings. We have Christopher Rygh as The Head Hunter himself, trying to protect his daughter as they live alone in the wilderness. Obviously, this does not work out and his daughter is killed. This starts his endless revenge quest trying to slay the thing that killed her, and a lot of other monsters along the way.
The film is LOADED with crazy critters, blood, skulls, teeth, and all sorts of mythological things that give this film an atmosphere that drives it. Obviously being filmed on a low budget, I’ve heard as little as $30,000, stuff is going to be cut out of the movie or not filmed at all to maintain that budget. We see this primarily when the Hunter is fighting monsters, offscreen. You hear it, it’s tense as you have no idea what the outcome is, and then you see what remains of the combatants. It’s a tricky little move that brings a lot of tension to the scenes if you allow some payoff, specifically showing monster heads, that doesn’t leave the viewer feeling cheated. One reason for this is that the effects and creature makeup are predominantly practical. And that really makes all the difference.
The film also does not spend too much time in any one moment. Quick cuts, scene changes, short dialogue, it all moves briskly and if you aren’t paying attention, you can miss some of it. The second fight, we see the Hunter ride off, and immediately are transported to when he comes back, bloody and wounded, head in hand. No fight. No monster, other than a bloody bag containing some piece of it, just the aftermath. Clocking in at 72 minutes, this venture into mythical madness is short and sweet. While the first forty minutes focus on building the character of The Hunter, it’s clear the second thirty are focused solely on the revenge plot of The Hunter.
Normally something like this would make me feel letdown. I want grand battles and monsters and gore. But Downey and the entire production team has spun this film so well, that you can’t tarnish the effort. There is so many cool props and set pieces, from his contract book filled with slain monsters, to his equipment, covered in runes and spells for protection, to his wall of heads. There is so much in this film that I sincerely hope this world is revisited in a larger budget someday, because it is dark and downright nasty.
The character of the Hunter is made to be so mysterious. He is gruff, short spoken, and driven. He seems constantly tired, waging an eternal war on creatures of darkness in the hopes that he will get the one that took his life from him. Every fight takes a toll on him, as the character gains scars on every inch of his body. His journey is compelling without having to even spell any of it out for the viewer. The ending was the perfect payoff for the feature.
The cinematography is truly fantastic as well. From dimly lit shots to natural landscape shots, to interior, the cinematographer does a great job getting the most out of every set piece. Like the practical creature effects, the costume design is unreal as well. The Hunter’s outfit is Tolkien heavy, which is awesome. The second half of the movie in general is very reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s work in The Lord of The Rings franchise, really embracing that fantasy journeyman aspect of the story, both in character and in storybook locations, while maintaining the Gothic tone it already has established. The story crafting is just as good as the cinematography. The POV segment is unreal.
This is not the movie you are expecting. It’s better. The Head Hunter is slow burn fantasy horror at it’s absolute best, accomplishing so very much with such a small budget. It provides an enthralling tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time wanting more. We absolutely need more mythical horror like this in the genre. Kudos to Jordan Downey and team for this, as I will be raving about this for years.
You can find this on VOD currently. I highly recommend it.