Frightfest 2020 review: Av: The Hunt
A Turkish woman must escape becoming the victim of an honour killing at the hands of her family
Written by Nikki Baughan
“You should have kept quiet like the rest of us.” This advice, given to a terrified Turkish woman on the run from her violent husband early in Emre Akay’s visceral survivalist thriller, underscores the real-life horror that gives the film its power. Akay and co-writer Deniz Culyan have shone an uncomfortable light on the predominantly Kurdish country’s appalling history of honour killings, in which women are slain by male relatives as punishment for supposed sins which bring shame on the family.
The woman is Ayse (Billur Melis Koc) who, stuck in an unhappy marriage with aggressive cop Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar) and unable to divorce, is in the throws of a passionate affair. When that dalliance is discovered, and her lover killed, Ayse finds herself pursued by Sedat and members of her own family, who have been tasked to kill Ayse as punishment for her transgression, and to uphold their honour. Making her escape into the wooded wilderness of Turkey’s Anatolia region, Ayse must turn the tables on her pursuers if she is to survive.
In only her second onscreen role, Koc is exceptional as Ayse, a desperate woman whose simple human desire for independence and happiness puts her at fatal odds with her homeland’s history of repressive misogyny. Yet, while she may be suffering, she is no passive victim. Crucially, Akay never lets the film stray into exploitation territory, taking care to show that Ayse will not capitulate without one hell of a fight, and can certainly give as good as she gets.
She is, in fact, more wily than her pursuers, who are routinely derailed by the toxic masculinity and misguided sense of patriarchal entitlement that fuels their bloody quest. Sedat’s bubbling rage frequency takes its toll on the group, which includes Ayse’s brother Ahmed (Adam Bay), Sedat’s cousin Cetin (Yagizcan Konyali) and Cetin’s terrified 16-year-old brother Engin (Baki Ridvan Kaymaz). They complain of blisters and turned ankles, while Ayse suffers her injuries in silence. Cetin pops drugs on a regular basis. And a conversation between Cetin and Engin about eating wild pigs — going directly against their Muslim faith’s ban on pork — further highlights this fetid environment of hypocrisy and male entitlement.
Akay ramps up the tension to fever pitch from the outset. Excellent camerawork combines tight framing of Ayse’s bloody face and disorienting low angles with wide shots that drink in the anonymous expanse of the Turkish countryside. An evocative and expertly-utilised score from Brian Bender and co-writer Culyan combines pulsing electronics with fraught strings. It all combines to create an intense and unsettling watch, made all the more disturbing by the real-world horrors it brings to the fore.
Director: Emre Akay Screenwriters: Emre Akay, Deniz Culyan
Cast: Billur Melis Koc, Ahmet Rifat Sungar, Adam Bay, Yagizcan Konyali, Baki Ridvan Kaymaz Running Time: 86mins