It tells the story of Veronica (Breslin), a beautiful teen girl who is lured out to the woods by a group of senior boys to be the victim of their hunt. What the boys don't know is that she has been taught by her trainer William (Bentley) to be a lethal weapon, turning the hunters into the hunted with a level of perversity far beyond anything they could have ever imagined.
This film contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Veronica has trained most of her life in armed and unarmed combat. She is extremely good in either case.
- Ambiguous Time Period: It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the movie is supposed to be set. The dresses the women wear all point out to The '50s and the cars range from the 1960s-70s, but the television in William and Veronica's motel room is in color with a digital display and the guns they use are far more modern than that.
- And the Adventure Continues: Veronica kills the four murderous boys, then William picks her up (apparently having been monitoring the action with a sniper rifle, and he could have intervened at any time) to congratulate her on finishing her training before they head off to find more slashers to kill.
- Ax-Crazy: Danny is the most outwardly unstable member of the group. Once he is in the woods, he loses all semblances of composure and sanity. Coincidentally enough, his weapon of choice is an axe.
- Batter Up!: Nelson's weapon of choice to murder girls is a baseball bat.
- Big Bad: Jameson, the leader of the male killers.
- Combat Pragmatist: Veronica is not above drugging her marks beforehand so that they're easier to deal with.
- Covers Always Lie: The poster makes it seem like William is part of the group of psychopaths hunting girls in the woods, when in fact he's the one who trained Veronica to be an effective Serial-Killer Killer.
- Crusading Widow: The untimely death of his wife at the hands of a serial killer is what drives William to turn Veronica into a weapon against them.
- Creepy Child: Veronica herself was this. She's completely blasé about her parents being murdered, and her response to William telling her about his own family's deaths is "Can I have ice cream?"
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Nelson may be part of a pack of teenage serial killers, but he is very close to his mother. Maybe a little too close.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Shane is really, legitimately in love with his girlfriend. They've been dating since they were fourteen. Veronica even comments that this is unusual, since she wouldn't expect any of the boys to care for any woman enough to maintain a relationship. As it turns out, though, he doesn't love her enough not to try to kill her when she finds out what the boys really do in the woods. Lucky for her, he's hallucinating and is actually strangling Veronica, which has predictable results for him.
- Evil Is Bigger: Jameson, played by Alexander Ludwig, is 6'2". Compare with Veronica, who is played by Abigail Breslin, who is 5'1".
- Final Girl: The point of the movie is to train a young woman since childhood to become one of these.
- Guile Hero: Veronica and William's plan depends entirely on fooling the group of killers into thinking that she's a helpless victim, then picking them off one by one. Since she's a lot smaller than her quarry, she's also dependent on subterfuge more than outright force, spiking their drinks with hallucinogens beforehand and luring them into traps.
- Hallucinations: The boys have these as a result of Veronica spiking the alcohol the trio drank before hunting her in the woods, to help in evening the odds for her. Veronica earlier undergoes them herself as part of her final test, due to being doped with the same substance.
- Has a Type: Jameson has a thing for blondes. That's why he always chooses them as victims.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Danny is killed with his own axe.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The boys' method of killing involves inviting girls out on a date to the woods and then hunting them down. Of course this time The Hunters Become The Hunted.
- Hurricane of Puns: While they are all in the car, Danny sets off one of these when he says he will introduce Veronica to his friend Annabelle (his axe) which causes the boys to crack up laughing:Danny: You are going to love my friend Annabelle... she's to die for.
Veronica: I can't wait to meet her.
Jameson: She's great but she can get under your skin.
Nelson: She can be a little edgy at times.
Shane: She's to the point.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Subverted. After the four guys tie up Veronica, they state that they're not going to sexually assault her. Their reason isn't much better though, because it "ruins the fun" of chasing her through the woods if she's physically impaired, indicating that they've already tried it in the past.
- I Call It "Vera": Danny has named the axe he uses for the murders "Annabelle".
- Ironic Echo: At the beginning of the hunt, Jameson asks Veronica if she's religious, and when she says no tells her that if she was going to die, she'd probably ask God for help. At the end, when she has him strung up and about to be hanged, Veronica asks him the same questions, and says she bets he's going to beg.
- Incest Subtext: Nelson and his mother look and behave more like a married couple than mother and son during dinner. Right before Veronica kills him, he hallucinates himself making out with his mother.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Veronica spends most of the film in a dress of some kind or other, and wears a gorgeous red cocktail dress in the woods, as shown on a poster.
- Lady in Red: Veronica appears in a red dress during the hunt at Jameson's request. She definitely looks classy in it, but it's also to make her Damsel out of Distress nature a surprise.
- Momma's Boy: Jameson teases Nelson for being so close to his mother as the guys pick him up for a new "hunt".Jameson: What, is she not coming?
- Mugging the Monster: The killers obviously had no idea the girl they marked as their latest victim was a professional Final Girl and Serial-Killer Killer.
- Mushroom Samba: The drug cocktail that William uses for Veronica's final test and which she later gives to the boys is one part Sodium Pentothal and one part DMT, so it produces powerful and vivid hallucinations.
- Nightmare Sequence: William's drug causes people to hallucinate their worst fear.
- For Veronica, it's being murdered by William himself, who is basically a father figure to her.
- For Danny, it's being hounded by giant pandas wearing suits.
- For Nelson, it's being attacked by a group of ninjas.
- For Shane, it's his girlfriend finding out about his "hobby" and being forced to kill her.
- For Jameson, it's all of his victims coming back for revenge on him.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Veronica plays the part of a terrified Damsel in Distress so well the boys don't figure out the truth until it's too late. Jameson eventually catches on.
- One Head Taller: Veronica wears heels during most of the movie, but they barely mask the fact that Jameson is over a foot taller than her.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The boys don't rape their victims because women can't run very well after a sexual assault, which would spoil their hunt.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Danny spends the whole movie behaving liked a spoiled six-year-old and it only gets worse the closer they get to killing someone. When the drug Veronica gave him kicks in, his hallucination takes the form of panda bears in tuxedos.
- Robbing the Dead: After she kills Danny, Veronica takes his boots so she doesn't have to run around the woods barefoot.
- Serial Killer: Veronica goes after a group of four friends that have killed over a dozen young women, that William knows of. Jameson later admits that it was actually 20 girls.
- Serial-Killer Killer: Veronica is specifically raised to ruthlessly hunt down serial killers.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: The boys always wear impeccable black suits and put on tuxedos when hunting the girls in the woods.
- Slashers Prefer Blondes: Jameson is the leader of a group of teenage serial killers and has a fondness for picking blonde female victims. Veronica, his most recent target, is actually a Serial-Killer Killer who turns the tables on him. Also, it's clearly a dye-job done specifically to catch his attention, since the opening of the film shows her as a brunette when she was a little girl.
- Slipping a Mickey: Veronica gives the boys a flask of booze that she has spiked with the drug cocktail that William tried on her earlier in the movie. She does this to level the playing field.
- The Sociopath: William describes all four boys as sociopaths, and Jameson later indirectly expresses the same opinion in Shane's hallucination.
- Tyke Bomb: William raised Veronica for the sole purpose of becoming a weapon to destroy serial killers.
- Use Your Head: During the fight against one of the killers, Veronica takes him down and keeps him down with a couple of headbutts.
- Wife Husbandry: Unintentionally on William's part, but by the time Veronica is 18 years old, she is romantically interested in him. He carefully declines her.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Veronica asks early on why she can't just shoot the boys. William tells her that a gun might run out of bullets or jam so she needs to learn to kill without them.
- Worthy Opponent: Jameson becomes deeply impressed by the way Veronica killed all his friends.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Veronica smears her face with blood and breaks her own nose to look like she's been beaten within an inch of her life by the boys she already killed, so that Jameson will underestimate her. It doesn't work because he sees her do it.