Hunter is a young father who has just arrived at a remote cabin in the woods. As he talks to his wife and baby son on the phone, he says it's for work. But judging from the chains he's taking from his truck, his agenda is much different.
As it turns out, he's withdrawn to face a curse alone and to keep his family protected from his dark secret. But there's a supermoon and things don't go as planned -- especially as Hunter receives an unexpected visitor. The visitor has a dark past of their own, and their confrontation threatens to unravel everything Hunter has fought to protect.
Written and directed by N'cee Van Heerden, this short horror film starts at a pitch, amping up the anxiety and tension that Hunter feels as he sets about his grim task. Establishing Hunter's family background with both tenderness and efficiency, Hunter's strenuous efforts to protect and hide his secret are captured with dynamic camerawork and editing, with richly shadowy lighting and cinematography adding an ominous atmosphere to the film.
In many ways, it's a typical genre approach, especially for films fascinated by bodily transformation and creature-based horror. But when Hunter's unwelcome visitor arrives on the scene, the film slows down and becomes more interested in character and motive, adding a humanistic dimension to the story. Ironically, by taking time to explore the emotional stakes and desires of each character, the actual conflict grows deeper and more interesting with each beat.
Featuring textured dialogue, the writing and storytelling come to the fore, as do great performances by actors Jedidiah Goodacre as Hunter and Toby Hargrave as his visitor Corbett. Hargrave's performance is particularly lived-in, blending an almost avuncular demeanor with a commitment to his agenda -- one that puts him in direct opposition to Hunter. As Corbett interrogates Hunter and his true motivations, he raises questions about mercy, justice and self-interest. As the answer comes out, Corbett and Hunter brace themselves for the ultimate confrontation.
Well-crafted, sly and unexpectedly probing, "Hunter's Cabin" has plenty of horror bona-fides, with excellent craftsmanship, pulse-pounding score and visceral storytelling. But it also commits to the value of character, making for a more memorably and emotionally vivid story. Taking the time to understand each character's motivations and stakes deepens the tension and conflict -- making the film's final moments all the more resonant and dramatic in impact. They come with a powerful thud, along a denouement that lingers with viewers well after the fade to black.