The Wild Hunt
- Directed by Alexandre Franchi
- Written by Alexandre Franchi and Mark Antony Krupa
- Starring: Ricky Mabe and Kaniehtiio Horn
- Classification: 14A
In Montreal director Alexandre Franchi's debut feature film, a young Montreal slacker, Erik (Ricky Mabe), heads up to the Quebec bush to try to win back his girlfriend, Evelyn (Kaniehtiio Horn), who's spending the weekend in the midst of a medieval fantasy game. Tired of the daily humdrum, Evelyn enjoys playing Princess Evlynia, the object of contention as beer-bellied faux Vikings and Celts swat each other with foam-covered swords. Meanwhile, various elves and shamans in guy-liner and dopey costumes run about the forest casting spells on each other.
Franchi's film - which won last year's Slamdance audience award and Best Canadian First Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival - is more entertaining in concept than execution. What starts as geek comedy gradually slides into a familiar morality play about the savagery beneath the veneer of civility.
Early scenes establish Erik as a likely candidate for this sort of world.
Downtrodden in real life, compelled to care for his senile father, he can be heroic in the confines of the play-battle world. Initially, he has no interest in the dress-up games. But his brother, Bjorn (co-screenwriter Mark Antony Krupa), who is one of the Viking leaders, convinces Erik to dress up in studded leather so he can pursue his "love quest."
Throughout, the role-playing characters insist on the importance of "decorum" or staying in character, so, in the manner of sword and sandal movies, they typically speak with mock-Shakespearean grandiosity, though the occasional "Let's rock 'n' roll," slips out.
Evelyn or Princess Evlynia has hooked up with the certifiably demented Celtic "shaman" Murtagh (Trevor Hayes), who obviously is working out personal issues in his play. Similarly, Bjorn, who can't bear to deal with his own sick father, connects to his roots by playing a Viking marauder.
With dozens of players, some of whom have worked for a year creating their costumes, aiming for a big night, tensions are high.
When Erik's meddling threatens to disrupt the game, in a development familiar to B-movie fans ( Hostile Intent, The Murder Game), the game turns deadly.
There are some smartly executed individual scenes, with a savvy mixture of comedy and suspense when the irate Murtagh goes behind Viking lines under a spell of "invulnerability" to make his pitch to Evelyn. But at a certain point, the racket and visual chaos of guys in costumes running around the woods at night yelling at each other loses its charm and the theme that men long to be marauders and women their prizes feels trite.
That said, the film's loony coda suggests the filmmakers are fully aware of The Wild Hunt's preposterousness and are having a laugh along with their LARP.