Director: Alexandre Franchi
Writers: Mark Antony Krupa & Alexandre Franchi
Starring: Ricky Mabe, Mark A. Krupa, Trevor Hayes, Tiio Horn
Producer: Alexandre Franchi, Karen Murphy
Running Time: 97 min
BBFC Certification: 15
I wanted to love The Wild Hunt, I really did, and on a whole I thought it was pretty good, but there was just something lacking that I struggled to put my finger on. I'll try my best to sift through my feelings, both positive and negative to try and put it into words.
The Wild Hunt tells the story of two brothers, Erik (Ricky Mabe) and Bjorn (Mark A. Krupa). Their father is very sick (presumably with Alzheimer's or similar) and Erik spends his days caring for him whilst Bjorn escapes into the fantasy world of Live Action Role Play (or LARP). When Erik's girlfriend Lyn (Tiio Horn) starts getting into it too and leaves to join a major LARP event whilst their relationship is entering a downfall, Erik decides to gatecrash and try to win her back. Unfortunately, the LARPers don't take kindly to outsiders barging in and disrupting the world they have created, especially Murtagh (Trevor Hayes) who has taken a shine to Lyn (or Princess Evlynia as she's known in the LARP world). He and his followers decide to take matters into their own hands and the line between fantasy and reality begin to blur.
It's a refreshingly original concept (although bizarrely a friend of mine has been working on a similar idea for a number of years) that on a technical level is brilliantly executed. It's advertised as costing around $500,000 to make which does not show in any way on screen. It looks gorgeous, with strong production design and a handheld yet pretty-looking indie style to the camerawork. There is a stark contrast between the scenes in and outside of the LARP world with the 'real' world looking drab and drained of colour compared to the fantasy world which looks very cinematic, especially in the night scenes where the reds are highlighted against the steel blue of the moonlight.
For much of the time the film works well on other levels too, but for me it didn't all come together to form a satisfying whole. I think what bothered me most were the characters. The performances aren't bad (a handful of clunky moments can be forgiven), it's more in the writing. I found most of the characters unlikeable which was probably a big reason why I never got fully invested in the film. Take the two brothers for instance – Erik I guess is supposed to be the hero with good intentions, but he's so damn stubborn all the time that you want to slap him. There are only a couple of brief moments when he lets himself go. Then you have Bjorn who is quite amusing at first in his total immersion in the fantasy world, but again he never really lets it go and his over-enthusiasm becomes more annoying than anything else.
It's the arc of the narrative that is the problem I think. The characters either don't develop at all or they flip-flop around (it's mainly Lyn that does this), so they don't have enough life and I struggled to empathise with them. The film has wild shifts in tone too which jar, especially when these shifts occur between two intercut sequences. This happens towards the end as things start to get quite violent and serious yet we still jump back to some of the minor characters squabbling over rules. I got the idea the filmmakers didn't quite know what they wanted to achieve at the end of it all, especially once the film reaches it's incredibly bleak conclusion. This comes as a shock, but in a 'what the fuck just happened' way rather than an emotionally devastating way. The outcome didn't feel justified to me at all.
I don't want to sound too harsh, because it is a fairly decent film. It's certainly entertaining and as mentioned it's a technical marvel for such a low budget production. A fair amount of the comedy and spectacle is effective too. It just doesn't come together as complete package unfortunately and I can't help but feel it's a problem in the writing that could have been dealt with at an early stage.
The film is released in the UK on DVD on 10th October by Network Releasing. Picture and sound are great and there are a handful of features on the disc. A collection of clips (presumably 'webisodes' or similar) are brought together to make a sort of mini 'making-of' which is lacking in filmmaking content, but entertaining with plenty of silly skits and goofing off from the cast. Also included are the trailer, storyboards, an image gallery and an option to watch the nicely drawn intro sequence without the titles laid over it.
The trailer for The Wild Hunt: