3 July 2014 | Shadowplayed
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere
The original title is best translated as "protectee", a person under someone's custody. Terrified young man runs across vacant fields trying to get away from a man in black overcoat and bowler hat. The mystical figure after him is walking at steady pace, as if he knows he'll catch his "victim" eventually.
Mihail ( the hunted) stumbles across lonely building in the middle of nowhere not knowing it's a mental hospital, enters, thus checking himself in. This film oozes fear, managing to build extremely suspenseful and eerie atmosphere. Without drop of blood, jump scares, monsters or traditional killer, tićenik is one scary, nightmarish experience. The symbolism (a broken down tree, a pale rocking chair, shadows and empty hallways), along with terrific score just scream loneliness, hopelessness and sorrow.
Hospitals always make for unpleasant setting, in addition to the surreal story. But there is certainly more, fantastic cinematography and great performances. Although very poetic and arty, the film stays coherent and tense, despite the snippets of dialog, mostly neutral. The words exchanged don't help us come to conclusion what's exactly happening here, who's the hunted and where's he coming from. You can prepare for some of the crucial questions remaining unanswered. Is the young man insane? Doctor doesn't seem so sure about it. He displays paranoia, but the person after him is clearly visible, even engaging in conversation and making contact with hospital staff. So, this is not only in Mihail's head.
Sadly, the film falls short with the running time of only 40 something minutes, kind of a miniature. Even so, Djordje Kadijevic achieved to deliver this much fear and pure emotion in such a small package. Brilliant atmospheric horror, in my mind, this is Yugoslav answer to Carnival of Souls ('62).