In the movies, if your man is a Prince Charming, then you know there’s probably something wrong. Such a fairy-tale dilemma is explored in Aleshia Cowser Jackson’s thriller, Hunther. When he was a teen, Charlie Westbrook (Hassan Johnson) was convicted in juvenile court for a sexual assault he committed in high school. Because he was a minor, Charlie was let off with a slap on the wrist. Moving to the present, Charlie appears to be on the straight and narrow and about to marry his love, Morgan (April Parker Jones). With his stepdaughter Lauren (Jasmyn T. Curry) in attendance, Charlie’s dream of a family is finally complete.
But old habits die hard, and it doesn’t take long for Charlie to make his move on Lauren. In an instant, her once vibrant personality is now cold and distant. A horrified and betrayed Morgan must confront Charlie. Before she can say a word, Charlie’s true face is exposed, and with an intense tone, Charlie puts her in her place and commands everyone to bed so they can straighten things out in the morning. Morgan’s home is now her prison.
That night, while Charlie sleeps, Morgan and Lauren escape. Just when they thought they were free, the two discover that Charlie is fully aware of what’s happening. He canceled all of Morgan’s credit cards and is following them on Morgan’s phone GPS. Charlie wants his women back. Fortunately for Charlie, he has a friend on the police force.
“Charlie puts her in her place and commands everyone to bed…Morgan’s home is now her prison.”
Hunther is a gritty and violent low-budget indie thriller. Written by Jackson and co-writer Ivan Mbakop, the story holds nothing back. There is a great deal of violence exacted on Morgan and Lauren. Though director Jackson skillfully keeps it off-camera with adept editing, these scenes may be triggering for some.
Much of the story hinges on the power and influence Charlie has over his wife and stepdaughter and how he uses it to intimidate and ultimately control the pair. With solid storytelling, events must get worse before they get better. The first two acts push Morgan and Lauren to their physical and emotional limits until they are like rabid dogs backed into a corner. Could a mother run to safety, knowing her child was in the hands of an abuser?
Johnson portrays Charlie as a violent SOB and skilled stalker. But, quite frankly, he’s just a little too good as the villain. As Morgan, Jones carries much of the emotional weight, and her performance is fantastic. The film has all the elements of a good thriller in terms of the pain and torture Morgan must endure to come out on top in the end.
Hunther takes a no-holds-barred approach to its domestic violence story. Jackson’s film is a solid thriller, limited only through its budget. However, the filmmaker makes the most of what little she has, creating a tense journey for all.
For more information about Hunther, visit the Eyeam Cinema Studios website.
"…takes a no-holds-barred approach to its domestic violence story."