Friday, July 15, 2011

One A Week Reviews #28: The Wild Hunt

This week it's a surprisingly engaging drama reviewed for Dvdsnapshot about Live-Action Role Players that'll have you wondering who might be blurring fantasy and reality.

Official Synopsis:
When Erik's girlfriend leaves him for another man – a man entrenched in the world of live action role play – he has no choice but to pack up and follow her, plunging himself into a strange and disorienting world where people take their medieval costumes and rules of play deadly serious. As Erik stumbles through this world, rules are broken, jealousies inflamed, and the game turns frighteningly real. With The Wild Hunt director Alexandre Franchi accomplishes the near impossible, crafting a dark and twisting thriller set entirely in the world of LARPing. Shot on location in an actual Quebec village built specifically for live action role play, The Wild Hunt blurs the line between fantasy and reality.

Our Take:

To brutally paraphrase Chekov: “When you introduce a Mjolnir in the first act, you have to have someone use it in the third.”

It's almost a shame to watch The Wild Hunt knowing anything about it going in. What looks like a cheap, well-photographed middle ages or Viking tale kicks off engagingly enough with furs and fires, fists and facepaint. It's a bit ham-fisted but quickly reveals the actual premise: these knights and crusaders are a bunch of present-day dudes playing pretend on the weekend. Knowing that going in – and even seeing it in the trailer – doesn't prevent a barking laugh when two guys break character to start fighting over the rules.

When Lyn, the rather depressing-seeming girlfriend of our trustily milquetoast lead, Erik, takes off with a motley crew of dudes in a van to go play Camelot in the woods, he does not do the sensible thing and box her stuff up to set out on the curb. No, he decides to go follow her and navigate the “thine” and “thou” crew to get her attention. At his side to guide him is his brother Thor, who takes his LARPing a bit too seriously.

At first he just has to try navigating this crowd's maddening – irritating - devotion to their shared dramatics and attempt fitting in to go force his girlfriend into communicating. He then again screws up being sensible by not taking off when she picks her bully friends over dealing with him. Soon it stops mattering when someone unstable starts taking the game far too seriously.

There's a lot of humor here, and the audience also shares Erik's frustration of not being in on the joke. However, when tempers flare and third act violence kicks in. For the lightness of the earlier scenes, the film closes on some surprisingly dark, though satisfying, notes.

I enjoy the Ren Fest as much as the next guy, but – like the next guy – I start feeling darn awkward whenever anyone wants to conduct a long conversation in character. (The mocking is strong with this one). However, this is mostly because I'm too shy and restrained to let loose and play such games. I'm not surprised you can squeeze a film out of the idea that someone engaging in “Live Action Role Play” can snap and take the game to far.

Special Features:
The Wild Hunt is presented in Widescreen with English 2.0 Dolby Digital audio. Extras include a set of featurettes of Festival events and a set of “Making of” clips. There are also a set of storyboards and the trailer.

There's nothing that objectionable in The Wild Hunt except for 2011 hipster ennui and a very slow start... except for, you know, some nasty third act bloodshed. Escapism escapes society's escapees to be replaced with delusion and violence. Well-made and surprisingly satisfying with a chilling finish.

Overall Picture:
Movie B-
Extras C

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