I hadn't heard, seen or read anything about this until my boyfriend mentioned it to me, having had a recommendation from his friend. I'm not surprised he was recommended it as they both have a link of familiarisation with the premise; it may not be the most interesting-sounding films, but it had a decent concept and was engaging enough to make it worthwhile viewing.
The Wild Hunt was directed by Alexandre Franchi who was written, produced and direct a few short pieces but nothing I recognise, so this seems to be his first major film. It's based on the event of LARPing, in other words, live action role playing. Basically, a group of people get together and act out, for instance, something that resembles a computer game. This particular film is about a medieval re-enactment game, but on a fairly large scale. Rather than a few people meeting up, this seems like quite a highly organised event over a few days, building up to the final battle on the last day before players head home their separate ways.
We're introduced to the cast of players, but only really a handful as there are too many to go in to too much detail to. In particular is one woman; she doesn't seem too happy at home, leaving her boyfriend to get some space by going LARPing for the weekend. The boyfriend isn't sure what to do, struggling at home himself with an ill father to care for and not being too interesting in childish LARP games since taking on adult responsibilities. His brother, whom he isn't a big fan of, is attending the shin dig too, but he's not comfortable with letting his girlfriend walk out of his life, unsure what's really going on between them.
Ergo, the boyfriend takes a trip to this LARP adventure, a large rural area that looks medieval, from the props and scenery, to the costumes and in-character people milling around, admin staff included. Only problem is, when he gets there, it seems his girlfriend may have found another; in this fantasy game, she's getting close to another guy, and the boyfriend isn't too keen on the competition, especially when not all of the game play seems so friendly. I won't say anymore on the premise, but as the story unfolds over the day or two, we learn more about relationships between certain characters, what happens in the love triangle, and that sometimes a game can be taken too far and too seriously with dangerous consequences.
What I liked about this film was both its premise and its sense of being quite down-to-earth. Real life roleplaying like this does happen, though it's quite an underground thing so not many people know about it. There were many times that I chuckled at how seriously it was being taken, wondering if I could ever do something like this myself (and deciding I couldn't!). But at the same time, it was also quite realistic. I got the sense that this really could have been happening, in part I think because it was quite low budget. There weren't A-List actors and actresses, no fancy special effects, no shiny sugary coating on top of the natural scenery and fake swords.
The main cast includes Ricky Mabe (Erik, the boyfriend), Kaniehtiio Horn Lyn), Spiro Malandrakis (Olivier), Mark Anthony Krupa (Bjorn) amongst others. As I've said, there are no A-List actors, or even B-List for that matter as I didn't recognise any names or faces. This didn't do the film any harm, in fact, it was probably a good thing. Was the acting good? Yes and no. It was watchable and believable for the most part, even though there were times I wasn't so impressed (such as by Mabe playing Erik) but it didn't put me off the film too much.
This was actually nominated for Genie awards, as well as winning Best Film and Best Narrative feature at the Slamdance film festival and the Best Canadian First Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival. I think I can see why. It was quirky but raw, with a sense of thrill and darkness edging the surface that increased as the film progressed. I liked how we saw another side to the 'game' and to the people involved, showing another perspective of what could have otherwise been 2D characters. This gave them more depth whilst giving the film a slightly psychological feel to it without becoming too deep. I thought it was also able to build up atmosphere quite well, drawing us in to an increasingly dark fantasy land and wanting to know what happened next because the premise had becoming quite gripping. It also helped that a degree of empathy had been created; I found myself disliking Erik's girlfriend but liking him, feeling quite sorry for him and wanting him to come out on top. There were a few twists and turns that drew out emotions and made this film quite moving, so that by the end of it, I felt its impact.
On the downside, I do think the film could have done more in parts. The acting, for instance, could have been a little tighter. The atmosphere could have been a little edgier. There could have been more memorable scenes during earlier parts of the film to keep up the tempo. However, all in all, I found it quite easy to watch and interesting too, being a little different to the norm. I'm not really sure what genre I'd classify it as, perhaps part thriller, part action. Either way, it ticked plenty of boxes, from action and fantasy, to drama, romance and thrill, making it quite a realistic but entertaining film.
I would recommend this, even if you don't necessarily think from the initial premise that it's your cuppa tea. I certainly wasn't convinced at first, even though I liked the sound of the title and the image on the DVD cover. It surprised me, and although it's not a popular or well-recognised film, I'd say it's understated and overlooked for something that is a worthwhile watch for a DVD night in.
DVD released 2011, rated Certificate 15, running time 96 minutes
Selling on Amazon for £15.99