Happy Hunting (2017) [Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2017]

A man living with addiction and alcoholism receives a call that sends him on a road trip toward Mexico. Near the border, he stops in a little town where he has to get clean while waiting for a call and ends up stumbling into a very special hunting festival.

Written and directed by Louie Gibson and Joe Dietsch, the film has interesting ideas, but most of them have been seen before. What makes it interesting is how these are developed and how they mix together. The film takes a sub-genre that has been seen before (Hard Target 1 and 2, The Most Dangerous Game, etc), Happy Hunting takes it and makes it into a celebration a la 2000 Maniacs and its sequel and remake (and its sequel). The film builds some fun and glee into the chase, but takes its time getting to it and then a big part of the chase is spent away from the hunter and solely on lead Warren Novak. While he’s an interesting character, he’s not exactly one that everyone will identify with.

Playing Novak is Martin Dingle Wall who does well with the alcoholic character who must overcome his issues if he wants to survive this hunt. His portrayal gives Novak a real scumbag-y way of doing things until desperation takes over. The part is played with talent here, but the character is not particularly likable. A few of the hunters come across as interesting bad guys, but the most interesting one is the Sheriff played by Gary Sturm. He gives his bad guy a particular shade of gleeful insanity that just brings the viewer in and makes them wonder if they should perhaps be on the bad guys’ side. Also of note, the Salton Sea locals who participated in this film and add a level of realism a lot of films of this type have.

Some of the kills in this film are magnificient in their gore levels and how they are done, however, the film does not have a ton of kills or a very high body count for an entry in the “humans hunting humans” sub-genre. The practical effects in this film are well done and show definite talent from the crew applying them.

The film’s cinematography by Joe Dietsch is either going to awe or annoy the viewer depending on their personal take on tons of drone shots. So many drone shots that the film becomes “Drone Shots: The Movie” after a while. The opening shot is eye catching and some of the shots are beautiful, but the pattern of using the drone as much as they could here causes it to become a bit of an annoyance and feels like it was perhaps a crutch to fill in empty runtime and attempt to make the film look more expensive.

Happy Hunting is a film that has some brutal kills, good effects, and interesting performances. It has a story that feels familiar but still manages to have a few twists and turns that are surprising. The images look great, including one of clouds over salt flats that is just stunning, but the overuses of drone shots becomes bland even though the shots are nice. Martin Dingle Wall gives a great performance which works against him a bit as he doesn’t come off as a character one wants to root for. The film does feel a bit long and perhaps this is in part due to the numerous drone shots. The ending is interesting and, as usual, fuck CGI fire, it’s probably the worst thing ever on film/digital.