I became interested in this film back when I read the synopsis while checking out movies playing at the 2010 SLAMDANCE film festival, where it would win the Audience Award. It deals with the world of live action role-playing, or LARP, where players dress up as characters and then act them out, mostly in the fantasy setting. Not my kinda thing, but I admit I find the activity, and the people who play, interesting subject matter. The events in THE WILD HUNT take place over a weekend larping event, when Erik decides to crash the make-believe festivities to win back Evelyn, the girlfriend he feels he’s losing to the fantasy world of Norse myth. She was invited by Erik’s deadbeat brother, who currently only lives for the game, so she can play the major role of a Viking princess kidnapped by the rival Celtic shaman. She is to be sacrificed to start the Wild Hunt, a Celt ceremony that marks the beginning of the big battle that concludes the weekend’s game. The only way Erik can get his girl back is to enlist the help of his brother and other players who are angry with him for his intrusion and his refusal to play by the rules. So Erik reluctantly dons Viking garb and starts playing the game so he can assemble a small group that will infiltrate the enemy camp and “rescue” Evelyn. In the right hands, this synopsis alone could have been the makings of a pretty decent comedy, but then you wouldn’t be reading about it here. If you have not gathered by now, I like my movies dark and this low-budget Canadian film fit the bill nicely. Watch the trailer after the break to get an idea of the film’s look and vibe, and my spoiler free thoughts.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. THE WILD HUNT isn’t a film about larping or a commentary on people who participate in it. For that, go check out the documentaries DARKON (good film, btw) or MONSTER CAMP. In THE WILD HUNT, larping is just a backdrop to the drama. The makers of the film reportedly played Dungeons and Dragons and actorco-screenwriter Mark Antony Krupa said in an interview that people who play these games should never try to appease the bigoted, right-wing fundamentalists who look at them as devil-worshippers and deviants. He says players should simply tell them to fuck off. So there are no mean-spirited jabs at the people who participate in role-playing or even the people who do not understand it. Most of the comedic elements shown early on come from the characters language switching between reality and fantasy, as seen at the beginning of the trailer. That’s not to say THE WILD HUNT doesn’t touch on some of the positives and negatives of anyone losing themselves to any type of fantasy world as it does, albeit breifly. The movie is more about Erik’s “love quest” and how once he breaks the rules of the game, the bursting of the fantasy bubble sparks a tragic chain of events fueled by mob mentality and blood-lust.
For any of you who decide to take my advice and watch this movie, be warned that aside from the fact that you already know things take a turn in the final act of the film, the majority of the movie carries all the earmarks of bedhead cinema; low budget, amateur acting with a cast of 20-somethings, and lots of talking. If that’s not normally your bag, don’t let that turn you off as these characters are engaging, especially co-screenwriter Krupa as Erik’s older brother Bjorn and Trevor Hayes as the evil Shaman Murtagh. The surrounding environment is interesting, shot in an actual LARP gathering spot complete with a medieval village, stone amphitheater, a Celt camp and even a Viking boat. The extras making up the bulk of the cast were real players who used their own costumes. Adding to all that is Claudine Sauvé’s cinematography capturing it all, at times betraying the film’s meager budget. And lastly, the “guy-loses-girl-guy-tries-to-win-girl-back” is a tried and true one — even if this one ends a bit differently than one would expect.
If I had any complaints it would be in reference to Erik and Evelyn’s relationship. I believe Erik loves her and I was sold that his character would do the thing he does to win her back. I just couldn’t for the life of me understand why. It’s not Tiio Horn‘s fault, as she looked pretty damn good and acted well, it was just that not enough of her personality was shown or back story revealed to sell me on why she was worth all the trouble. Like Bella in the TWILIGHT films on a much smaller scale, Evelyn comes across as an attention seeking narcissist who I would only deal with for a night…maybe two if she was good in the sack. But this is a minor complaint and by the films end, I did feel a bit sorry for her. Some of the technical issues were obviously due to a lack of funds more so than a lack of talent.
For their first feature film, Alexandre Franchi and Mark Antony Krupa’s have created an engrossing, intense drama that I’m betting will have some of you sitting with your mouth agape when the end credits begin to roll. I’m giving THE WILD HUNT four foam swords out of five, and cannot wait to see what these guys do next. To keep up with their release schedule, check out their official site or more importantly, hit them up on Facebook and be sure to tell them Morbid sent ya.