The Wild Hunt Review

On Saturday, my friend Ed and Isat down to watch a movie on Netflix. He was taken by the movie's cover-image,and the title, and when we looked at Netflix's description, he was decidedly opposed to it. Netflix's blurb reads:

The line between fantasy and reality quickly merges in this psychological drama set within the elaborate mini-world of a role-playing game - based on an ancient legend - that's being staged in Quebec by a cast of costumed enthusiasts.

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If ever there was a blank stare following a blurb, it's that. I couldn't tell if it was going to be a horror movie, a thriller, or a sappy romance set to the tune of the Sterling Renaissance Festival. In fact, it is none of those, and though we we're expecting a movie with an anti-video game or anti-LARPing message, we got something a lot deeper and more complex.

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The opening scenes begin with a battle and an exile. I wasn't sure exactly of what was going on until the combatants begin to beat each other, and then promptly broke up to argue about therules of combat. It sets the tone for a movie that is always following two lines at once; the real world of grown adults pretending to be fantasy characters within a faux-medieval narrative, and another where those characters properly exist. It makes for sometimes silly, sometimes deeply unsettling moments where the viewer is forced to try to picture him or herself in the character's place. But where there are unsettling moments, there are also some very funny ones; as much as this is a thriller,there is a good bit of tongue-and-cheek worked in that helps alleviate the gut-wrenching apprehension.

Let me say this: the movie's setting is brilliant. Those who are familiar with annual RenFairs are bound to find themselves familiar with the "LARP camp" (for lack of a better term). Imagine a private compound walled off with wood where the property meets the road, with a collection of medieval buildings right near the wall, and then on the other side a rolling expanse of untamed wilderness. It's a very cool, very malleable set-up. We see a blacksmith's shop, a food hall, barracks, a check-in booth(that is, obviously, distinctly out of character), an ale house, and a woodshop among the others.

There are wells, there are alleys to pee in, outhouses occupied by refs dressed as fairies, and, of course, the king's own listing arena. But further out past the little Ren village are a few other, less permanent settlements. The elves, for example (people who choose to dress up and play the part of forest elves, pointy ears and all) have their own settlement, and the "Celts"have theirs, too, which is nothing more than a shabby assembly of flimsy skin-and-stick tents with fur mats and fire circles. It's a really interesting array of sets for the movie to take place in, and I'd almost say that the exploration of the RenFair mindset would have been incomplete if they hadn't done such a good job.

The RenFair mindset is exactly what the movie seeks to explore. As you might have scryed from the Netflix blurb, the characters who populate the RenFair compound are people who choose to live in their characters, be they the King, an elf, a Celt or a MAGNUS SON!

Each character in the movie is capable of sinking to varying degrees into their fictional persona, and many, as the movie says, "Live to come up here to getaway from their real lives." Inside the compound, you can only be in character;to some that means throwing on a Scottsman's kilt and plait and drinking ale from a horn, and to others that means worshiping Thor, the Thunderer, and carrying around a war hammer and screaming death threats at one another (andthen arguing about role playing statistics).

While there is a long and complicated mythology to the interplay of nationalities and characters, the movie never forces it on you. An attentive viewer will become a lore master of The Wild Hunt in one viewing. For now,know that the Magnussons are the meat of the story. Erik and Bjorn Magnusson form the foundation on which the movie is built. Erik, the younger brother, is forced to take care of his very ill father, because his brother Bjorn has moved into the RenFair compound to be in-character 24/7. This sours Erik against the LARPing, which we can infer he once dabbled in with his girlfriend, Lyn, though it is never properly explained. Because of his older brother's absence, Erik's life is ruled by his ailing father, and it loses him his arguably crazy girlfriend, Lyn, who decides to go up to the compound to "be free."

Erik follows her, intent on winning her back (and firm in his belief that "being free" doesn't mean sleeping around with guys who dress in fur and spend all day make-pretending that they'reliving in a time before germ theory). The interplay between Erik and the Lyn is real and believable. Director Alexandre Franchi uses a lot of close-ups of eyes and faces to good effect, and as Lyn scintillates between Erik's dour skepticism and Shaman Murtagh's ruthless character, the viewers are pulled in.
The Wild Hunt seems like it should devolve into madness and violence relatively fast. There is sexual tension, belligerent bullying, and a whole compound of half-mad grownups with weapons and no real laws. Surprisingly,the movie uses it's own setting to decompress it's pressure, allowing for a very slow, but very, very tense buildup. When two characters argue, it almost inevitably turns towards statistics and childish things like (cloak of invisibility). The characters surrounding Erik, Lyn, and Murtagh don't seem to understand the severity of the love triangle, and likewise those three don't seem to realize the very unstable, almost psychotic boiling around them.

When it finally does erupt, you'll be riveted to your seat. There is no looking away, and the cast has done such an excellent job at investing you into their characters that you're drawn to sides immediately. I admit that I gasped a few times.
The movie doesn't havea cloak of invulnerability, however. There are some important questions left open towardsthe end about the fate of particular characters. That is the unfortunate effectof the slow-burn story. When the shit hits the fan, it goes fast, and the action on screen isn't necessarily as coherent as it it could have been.

And I was nota fan of the last scene.
Also, I'm not sure why the choicewas made, but the movie is hued with a distinct blue overtone to it. It isn't obtrusive, as it is in some other films, but I'm not reallysure what it adds to the experience except to make it harder to see during darkscenes. I suppose that occasionally the hue makes the things on screen seem more bleak, but in all itwas distracting if not annoying.
However, those are minor qualmswith a movie that is otherwise not what you expect, more than you hope for, andactually manages to deliver in it's examination of the dark side of RenFair andLARPing super-fans. Sometimes, the grass isn't greener on the other side.

I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to fans of thrillers, fantasy, and the dark side of human nature.

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Posted in Pets Post Date 06/03/2017