A young couple meet for a passionate tryst in a dingy shagpad in a small rural town , a few stolen moments, but both are edgy, flinching at every random sound. When she hits the shower, there’s a violent knock at the door, someone demanding they open up before he breaks it down.

While the woman, Ayse (Billur Melis Koç) hides on the balcony clad only in her underwear, he opens the door, a cop barges in, violent, aggressive, bullying. He searches the flat. Searches for Ayse. A struggle ensues, the cop pulls his gun, shoots Ayse’s lover dead. Jumping from the balcony, Ayse runs for her life.

Finding all doors closed to her, abandoned by her sister and by her friends, Ayse heads to her family home, creeps in, steals some money, enough to get her to Istanbul safely. But she’s surprised by her brother. Who’s supposed to be in Germany. Attacking her, she fights him off, runs from the house, steals her dad’s car and drives off into the night, pursued by the menfolk of her family, intent on killing her, avenging the perceived lost honour her adultery has brought upon their family…

Beautifully shot in the lush, verdant, Turkish countryside, Av (The Hunt in Turkish) is a propulsive thriller that dares to examine the misogynistic underbelly of Turkey’s patriarchal society as Ayse’s family, her brother, her father, her cousins, side with Ayse’s sadistic, betrayed husband, Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar), the dodgy, murderous cop from the film’s opening scenes hunting her through the woods like one of the wild boars the guys joke about. But like the wild pigs she’s compared to, Ayse isn’t going down easy. She’s turning the tables on toxic masculinity and the hunted is becoming the hunter.

I wanted to love Av. I wanted to love it as much as I love Coralie Fargeat’s brutal, beautiful Revenge to which it’s been widely compared. But I didn’t. While it’s a queasily effective exploitation thriller that examines and condemns Turkey’s toxic misogynistic patriarchal society maybe I’m just not that comfortable with an exploitation thriller about a woman who’s the target of a so-called ‘honour’ killing directed by a man who, however well-meaning, constantly threatens her with sexual violation, consistently equating the heroine with a hunted wild pig, most explicitly in the closing moments of the film.

Atmospheric and paced like a freight train, Av lays bare the rapey misogyny at the heart of Turkish society, and while the performances are great and the story believable if unsubtle, ultimately Av just leaves something of a bad taste in the mouth, it’s circular narrative aptly denying us that crowd-pleasing catharsis, those moments of vengeance, that allow them to be successful.

An exploitation film that just doesn’t feel that exploitative, there’s plenty of guilt and misery to go around in nasty exploitation thriller Av: The Hunt. But I still feel a female director would have been more suited to such obvious material.

Arrow Video Frightfest Digital Review: AV - The Hunt
3.5Overall Score
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