Why do we kill? It’s a question asked by Dash Melrose’s character Donnie in the film WHITETAIL, a movie about a hunting trip gone wrong when a Tom (Tom Zembrod) and son Donnie (Dash Melrose), as well as Donnie’s Uncle Frank (Paul T. Taylor), head out into the woods and stumble upon a crime scene.
Written and directed by Derek Presley, WHITETAIL unfolds as if Fargo took place in rural Texas. Donnie’s silence throughout the film, possibly due to the recent death of his mother (the catalyst for the trip) makes his statement all the more powerful. The film doesn’t look to answer its question about killing, but it does play on dueling themes of murderous bank robbers and the toxic masculinity of hunting.
Hunting is something I’ve never particularly been a fan of. I once dated someone years ago whose family took a yearly men’s only hunting trip and would plaster the heads of animals they’d killed on their walls. I understand that for some it’s less about the hunt and more about the chance to bond or that it’s to experience nature and connect with it in a primitive way, but it’s always felt like an unnecessary act of toxic masculinity to me. I suspect Derek Presley feels the same way.
The lead of the film, Tom, doesn’t really feel like a hero, but rather a distant father figure who’s grasping at straws to connect with his son in the only way he knows how – killing animals in the woods. When they come upon the body of Davey Bottoms (Jason Douglas), one of three villains in the film who planned to run away after a bank robbery, Tom holds his masculinity up with pride. Rather than leaving the trip to call the police right away, Tom, along with Donnie and Frank in tow, stays with the barely alive body of Davey to take him in himself. That’s where things go wrong, as Davey’s brother Ricky (Jason Coviello) and their friend Jesse (Billy Blair) are now hunting down this family to reclaim a bag of money.
This film has quite a bit going for it, including an intensely excellent performance from Jason Coviello as the crazy Ricky Bottoms and a script that continues to build emotional moments out of characters who refuse to show their emotions due to their hyper-masculinity. This thriller is all about the journey and is a fascinating look at masculinity and the trouble it can cause.
WHITETAIL is now available in select theaters. The film is set to be released on Digital, VOD, DVD and Blu-Ray this fall.