Manhunt / Rovdyr (2005)
Also known as Manhunt, Rovdyr is a Norwegian horror film with a fairly simple plot. In a nutshell, a group of young people travelling in a campervan are ambushed, and soon find themselves in the middle of the woods, being hunted for sport.
At first the main four characters are quite annoying. Roger is short-tempered and rude. Mia stupidly throws the van keys into the woods. Camilla has a habit of shouting when she should be silent. But once the action really starts (marked by the first time we hear the terrifying sound of the hunting horn) this is soon forgotten. As the friends run for their lives, things get brutal and there are some very tense scenes indeed.
The gore effects are impressively effective. Jump scares are used sparingly, but used well. And the photography employs a hand held camera, often at uncomfortably close range. This all adds to the feeling of disorientation and of not knowing what to expect next. The 'hunters' have no dialogue, and we find out almost nothing about them, reinforcing the lack of connection to us, and thus removing any sense of humanity they might have. This makes them feel all the more intimidating and impenetrable.
Rovdyr tries hard to recreate a movie like The Last House On The Left (1972), I Spit On Your Grave (1978), The Hills Have Eyes (1977) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The final product is deliberately grainy, with faded colours, and filmed in almost a documentary style - all very evocative of this genre of film and the time period. It follows a familiar premise of outsiders from a very different culture being assaulted by the unfamiliar environment and its inhabitants. Rovdyr is set in 1972, the same year The Last House On The Left was released, and even uses music taken from that film. It also plays a haunting song over the closing credits, which manages to feel both beautiful and disturbing at the same time, and fits well with the 1970s exploitation film feel. You will find it hard to get the music out of your head for some time afterwards.
And rather than opting for a blunt twist or shock ending, I really liked the subtle but unsettling final scene.
Despite a low budget, and a cast of mostly unknown (at the time) actors, Rovdyr is an effective horror film and thriller, with convincing performances and enough tension to maintain my full attention throughout. I certainly think it's worth watching if you're a fan of the genre, and don't have an issue with subtitles.