The practice of honour killings is a disturbing and disgusting plague that reaches out all over the world affecting women and men both heterosexual and homosexual and destroying their lives all because of a warped belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonour upon their family.
According to a 2008 report by the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Human Rights Directorate in Istanbul alone there was one honour killing every week with over 1,000 during the previous five years. Added to this terrifying figure in Turkey often times young boys are ordered to commit the murders because of the reduce jail time they will receive if they are caught.
Directed and co-written by Emre Akay Av: The Hunt, which received its premiere at this years FrightFest, attempts to expose Turkey’s heinous and often overlooked honour killings following Ayse (Billur Melis Koç) as she is relentlessly pursued by her father’s men after leaving her husband for another.
With her lover murdered by a crocked cop in the opening moments Ayse is forced to flee the city in an attempt to reach Istanbul and some form of safety. Refused help from her female friends who all seem to think she has brought this gratuitously brutal retribution upon herself she heads for the countryside.
Close behind her come a band of heavily armed males including a 16 year old boy, all led by Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar) who just happens to be Ayse’s husband. Enraged and emasculated by her adultery Sedat is determined to get her back and teach her a lesson she will not forget however the head strong and capable woman refuses to give up without a fight. Standing alone in a world that hates her with nothing left to lose Ayse’s fight for survival becomes even more important.
More a grim and realistic action thriller than a horror Av: The Hunt is well shot and features some spectacular Turkish vistas with the beauty of the landscape slammed against the hideous attitudes of the characters that populate it.
The entire world we are shown is sexist and full to the brim with toxic masculinity that suffocates every scene. Ruled by patriarchy Ayse is a lone figure fighting for not only what is right but her entire gender.
Although it succeeds in exposing a terrible and true crime that is committed across the planet all I the name of honour sadly Av: The Hunt ultimately feels like a missed opportunity and this is due to the lack of character development in any and all the people we meet.
All the adult males are evil without explanation or examination and the other women we meet are uncaring and unhelpful. As an audience we obviously feel for Ayse but only due to the horrible things we see happen to her and not because we truly understand or identify with her.
No flashback or dialogue reveals why Ayse married Sedat, lost faith in him or ultimately betrayed him and sadly this just serves to lessen her character and motivation and make him into a cartoon clichéd villain rather than a fully rounded human being. Equally Ayse’s father is only seen in one dream sequences which offers little to flesh out the twisted and broken relationship they have or why he is so fixated on capturing her.
Without a real sense of who Ayse is, why she is on the run and why she will not give up on her freedom, any chance of her being a truly believable hero is lost and with it a deeper understanding into both the victims and the perpetrators of honour killings is lost as well. Both male and female characters are reduced to animals acting out of pure violent survival instinct which is ironic seeing as the odious and boorish men hunting Ayse often compare her to a wild pig.
The lack of in depth character elaboration or exploration is a huge failing in the Av: The Hunt and almost derails the message and power of the whole film. Without this solid scripting everything appears two dimensional and the very real murders that are taking place right now in the name of honour could be written off by some more small minded audiences as just a horror movie plot device rather than a truly despicable and disgusting crime.