“The Wild Hunt” is a film so creatively conceived and hauntingly executed it will stick with you long after the first viewing. I caught it on the big screen over a year ago in Canada and have been waiting for a good opportunity to share it with American friends ever since. The film is available on DVD starting this week and I’m back in the US, so it seems a good a time as ever to rave. It’s also an oddly appropriate week to bring up “The Wild Hunt” due to the opening of “Trollhunter” in theaters. They’re both wildly entertaining and oddly compelling mash-ups of a number of different genres, unexpected thriller/comedies with singularly inventive narratives. While you’re waiting for the Norwegian “monster” movie to open in your city, check out “The Wild Hunt” on home video.
Also like “Trollhunter” this low-budget Canadian flick does a fantastic job of playing around with the border between reality and fantasy. Yet instead of bringing mythical creatures into a profoundly real (and “Blair Witch”-reminiscent) narrative, “The Wild Hunt” works within a more mundane story: a Live Action Role-Playing community in rural Québec. This setting allows writer/director Alexandre Franchi to really break down human imagination and explore how a game might not necessarily stay harmless. In fact, this supposedly safe realm of fun and imaginative expression might open us up to quite the opposite, messing with our conception of reality and bringing about dark and unexpected violence.
Initially “The Wild Hunt” is just another uproariously witty fish-out-of-water comedy. Erik Magnusson (Ricky Mabe) is an overworked Montréal youth who has a falling out with his girlfriend, Evelyn (Tiio Horn). She runs off to join the yearly week-long extravaganza at a LARPing community (which actually exists), where Erik’s brother (Mark A. Krupa, who co-wrote the film) is the Viking leader. Erik goes after her, determined to win her back, yet the referees won’t let him enter this anachronistically medieval town without getting into costume and taking on a character. Suddenly our protagonist is the anachronism, and we join him in his hilariously dumfounded struggle to comprehend this odd world of Vikings and elves.
And then the film takes a turn. The fight to win back Evelyn brings “The Wild Hunt” away from light-hearted comedy and into the realm of the deeply unsettling slasher flick. I won’t spoil anything, but it’ll suffice to say that the final battle is far from the joyful romp at the end of “Role Models.” It’s not that the humor suddenly stops, but everything becomes tinged with an unsettling thematic darkness, taking us down a path that folds horror into an already complex mix of genres. “The Wild Hunt” is an extraordinarily difficult film to classify, which is an essential component of its success.
There is so much going on in this low-budget Canadian thriller that in retrospect it almost feels like a number of different films in one. It almost demands to be watched again and again. After one viewing it might feel like a hilarious dark comedy, while on a second or third it seems a bit more like a deeply disturbed and almost Shakespearean tragedy. Seek it out.
“The Wild Hunt” is now available on DVD.
Recommended if you like: “Trollhunter”; “Black Death”; “Role Models”