REVIEW: AV The Hunt (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Emre Akay.

In our hellish political landscape it is often remarked upon how Hulu’s adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-) is less dystopia, more current affairs. Perhaps not surprising, as Atwood herself confirmed that her novel was based on historical real-life events such as the Salem witch trials. So too here director Akay takes inspiration from actual atrocities against women, this time honour killings by their male relatives: something that continues to be business as usual in parts of the world.

In modern day Turkey, Ayse (Billur Melis Koç) seeks refuge from her unhappy marriage in the arms of another man. But when her family find out she must flee for her life, making a cross-country run where every man – and some women – are a potential threat.

There’s a suffocating pall of conspiratorial patriarchy to Ayse’s journey. After opening in media res with her escape from a block of flats, she turns to female friends and relatives and is met with a range of responses: but even those who are sympathetic are limited by the social cords that bind them, their solidarity compromised by the threat of male violence which could equally come crashing down on their heads at any time. So Ayse is on her own, forced to steal and make a break for Istanbul like a fugitive, while her own family (including brother and psychopathic husband) pursue. Their intentions are unambiguous: armed with knives and a variety of firearms, they have one goal.

As with Coralie Fargeat’s game-changing Revenge (2017), the tone hear is one of grisly confrontation of the worst examples of male violence as viewed by an autonomous and powerful woman. For as things progress Ayse demonstrates herself not to be a token final girl, but rather a resourceful, capable woman who may be more than these men had bargained for.

If the male characters are broadly emblematic (the rapist; the drug user; the young one) and the finale a touch abrupt there is compensation in the vitality of both Akay’s direction and Koç’s performance, both combining to form an arresting reminder that this dystopia is the lived reality for millions of women today.

Tim Coleman

AV: THE HUNT had its UK Premiere at FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition on 31st August 2020.

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