A long trip through the desert at night, pharmaceutical company executive Alice dozing while colleague and road trip buddy with benefits John takes the wheel, rousing occasionally to respond to texts from her boyfriend then making a pit stop while she picks up snacks and he refills the strangely empty tank, a quiet night on the road until the first shot rings out, clipping Alice on the arm.
Pinned down and unable to get back to the car, the clerk is already dead and Alice is unable to reach the phone she dropped; John, listening to his music, is initially oblivious to her distress, and when he finally investigates he too dies on the spot. The landline and alarms disconnected, the only outside communication is the walkie talkie on the counter, placed there by the taunting shooter who knows Alice and her life and all the lies she maintains.
A remake of the 2015 Spanish thriller La noche del ratón (Night of the Rat), Night of the Hunted is directed by Maniac’s Franck Khalfoun and credits him and Glen Freyer with the screenplay alongside original writers Rubén Ávila Calvo and David R L, a single location survival horror of imbalanced power as Alice (The Deep House’s Camille Rowe) takes shelter from an armed man who is not interested in negotiation, attempting instead to control her through fear.
The sense of threat constant, Alice is capable once she overcomes her initial shock but is limited despite the array of goods for sale in the gas station, her unnamed assailant (Stasa Stanic) able to target her at long range and she unable to signal for help or communicate with the outside world, a police car rushing down the highway with lights flashing so close but too far to be of any help, anyone who stops immediately in danger should they enter the store and realise what is happening rather than paying at the pump.
Yet despite the precision rifle in use, Night of the Hunted has the broad spread of a shotgun with broad indiscriminate targets: angrily rejecting the label of a conspiracy theorist which he sees as dismissive, he rails against vaccines, decries the cost of medical insurance, blames the woke for hijacking his country, the anonymous shooter less a character than a misguided point of view of misinformed but genuinely dangerous rage with which there can be no reasoning because he is not rational.
Full of false equivalencies as he compares Alice’s marketing role with his rifle, the crux of the relationship is that this man knows and resents Alice specifically, has stalked her and orchestrated this confrontation, yet unlike Hunt Her Kill Her with his identity never revealed there is no emotional justification or dramatic payoff other than more violence as she finally lures him inside, the hatred and prejudice never questioned or challenged, instead presenting a disappointing microcosm of America which doesn’t challenge the unstated acceptance that mass shootings are inevitable and unavoidable.