On paper, the film HAPPY HUNTING, should be one that I would love. The premise centers around an alcoholic who becomes the target of a deadly game at the hands of psychotic rednecks - I mean, what's not to love about that? Films that focus on the perverse nature of humanity always peak my interest; however, I felt like the overall storyline left a lot to be desired and was a missed opportunity for a film that could have been quite profound.
HAPPY HUNTING is co-directed and written by Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson and stars Martin Dingle Wall, Ken Lally, Kenny Wormald, and Gary Strum. The focus of the film is primarily on Warren Novak (Martin Dingle Wall) a drug selling loner who is struggling with a severe alcohol addiction, when one day he gets a mysterious call that changes the course of his life. As he sets off to Mexico, leaving quite a bloody trail, we get a glimpse into the broken existence that Warren leads. Though Warren's background lends itself to the redneck's purpose for massacring people, I felt like the overall execution was choppy and unclear.
In terms of the acting, I was mildly impressed with the talent on the screen. Having been a fan of Kenny Wormald since seeing him in THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS, I enjoyed viewing a more nefarious side to him. Martin Dingle Wall had some moments that were enjoyable and I was impressed with the transformation that he had to undergo due to his character's alcohol addiction. As for the "rednecks" themselves, they served their singular purpose with Steve Patterson (played by Ken Lally) and Sheriff Burnside (played by Gary Strum) as the shining light.
I wouldn't say that this film relied heavily on trying to scare the audience; however, it did provide some unique and interesting kill scenes and plenty of gore to appease gorehounds. I did appreciate how unique some of the deaths were considering that most of the characters had guns on them and not all the deaths were from gunshot wounds. An aspect of the film that I will happily praise though is the ending. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't go into too much detail, but I absolutely love when an ending doesn't rely on packaging everything up into a nice, neat bow. I was extremely happy with how the ending played out and it just goes to show you that not everyone can escape death so easily.
I think one of the strongest aspects to HAPPY HUNTING would be in its cinematography and presentation of the film. It does have an art-house feel to it which I was a fan of. The majority of the film takes place in the desert but the colors are so vibrant and starling that it's hard to divert your eyes away from everything that is unfolding. For me, I was more captivated by the color tones used, such as the vivid oranges and yellows, that I ended up being more enthralled with the artistic direction than the overall plot of the film. If there is one thing I will say about this movie, it's that it is beautiful to watch.
Overall, HAPPY HUNTING didn't meet my standards of what I had hoped the film would be. Though the idea of someone hunting another individual is enticing in a fictional narrative, I found myself thinking of other films that have done it so much better such as BATTLE ROYALE. Though I may not have enjoyed the film as a whole, I did appreciate how they brought to light the effects of alcoholism, which led to a somewhat interesting plot point. I would be remissed if I didn't say that there is a definite level of talent within these filmmakers and it's quite clear that they know how to put together a beautiful piece of visual artistry. Though HAPPY HUNTING wasn't for me, I think a lot of people will find something quite different about this film. Regardless of my overall thoughts, I do look forward to seeing more work from directors Joe Dietsch and Louis Gibson in the future.