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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.03.18] thriller drama

From an established filmmaker, Hunting Lands would be a risky proposition but as a debut feature, it marks the emergence of a new filmmaker to watch.

Frank Olsen is a man searching for solitude. He's rebuilt the family cabin from the ground up and moved in full time, in part as an escape from his wealthy family and in part as a coping mechanism for PTSD. While out on a hunt, he comes across a truck dumping something in the woods. Out of curiosity, he decides to investigate only to discover that the tarp is wrapped around a badly beaten woman who has been left for dead.

For some inexplicable reason, he takes her in, gets her looked after and then sets off to find the man who left her in the woods. And so, for a large swath of Hunting Lands, we follow Frank as he tracks the man in the blue truck around town, observing and planning though what he's planning is not immediately obvious since he doesn't share his plan with anyone.

Hunting Lands is a ballsy movie. It's lean, unfussy and leans heavily into actor Marshall Cook's largely wordless performance and the outcome is a bit of a marvel. Cook has a piercing gaze which draws the audience in and I found myself on edge, leaning in, anticipating the moment when Frank would snap.

Writer/director Zack Wilcox makes some bold choices, opting to tell his story with little fanfare but that's not to say the movie isn't visually interesting. Wilcox and cinematographer Edwin Pendleton Stevens manage to make even the scenes of Frank driving around interesting, not to mention that they take full advantage of the beautiful snowy backcountry.

What's particularly impressive is Wilcox and co-writer Josh Amato's scarcity of dialogue and the dialogue there is, is carefully parsed out to deliver maximum information and effectiveness.

Hunting Lands is a fantastic thriller which keeps the audience engaged until the very last frame, never quite knowing how it's going to end. I was completely sucked into the story and when it was over, I was left with a few images I couldn't shake, particularly the final shot of Frank's face. Completely riveting.

Hunting Lands is screening tonight at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Recommended Release: Whitewash

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