LARPing thriller unsettling, creepy

LARPing thriller The Wild Hunt, hitting Toronto theatres Friday.

LARPing thriller The Wild Hunt, hitting Toronto theatres Friday.

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

First, an aside to the segment of our reading public who are Live Action Role Players (LARPERs). Yes, we know you're out there.

The surprisingly taut shoestring psychological thriller The Wild Hunt does not do a disservice to you and your ilk (although the odd elk comes off badly). Admittedly, this acclaimed Canadian film from last year's Toronto Film Festival it won Best First Feature comes off as a combination of Fanboys (dry, self-deprecating humour and all) and Deliverance.

But the option of ditching one's humdrum life to pillage like a Viking for the weekend does actually seem pretty attractive in The Wild Hunt if you remove the part about some people losing touch with reality and maybe killing you.

As opposed to the trailer, which concentrates on the lurid (for one thing, it implies a rape that never happens in the story), The Wild Hunt is actually a nuanced, unpredictable character study of the some very believable characters. Shot on location in an actual Quebec medieval LARPing compound, it opens with a blank slate and a lot of people we know nothing about, and proceeds to fill in the blanks organically.

As the movie opens, we meet Erik, a nice guy apparently, if a bit of a milquetoast, who bids a passionless goodbye to his live-in girlfriend Evelyn (Kaniehtiio Horn) as she gets into cars with some sinister-looking men.

Turns out, in her weekend incarnation, she's a Viking queen who's been kidnapped by the king of the Celts, Shaman Murtagh (Trevor Hayes). This information comes via Erik's brother Bjorn Bjorneson (Mark Antony Krupa, the movie's writer), holder of Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor.

Erik, who considers the whole LARPing thing a geeky waste of time, nonetheless is driven to wonder what is so wrong with their relationship that Evelyn feels a need to play princess with strange men.

So in a revelation akin to Dustin Hoffman's in The Graduate, Erik sets off desperately to find Evelyn and convince her to rejoin reality. This proves easier said than done, since just being a normal human in this environment involves committing the crime of not being in character. People keep whapping him (five times and you're dead), Bjorn mistakenly thinks his brother has come onside, and Shaman Murtagh turns out to be actually deranged (as are some of his followers). All of which is hilarious for a while.

Erik's refusal to play by the rules causes alliances to break, and various Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and elves (with recycled Spock ears) go to war with the Celts, who in turn declare a "wild hunt," an ominous-sounding traditional ritual that is never really explained but seems to have been inspired by Lord Of The Flies.

It's a long and not especially violent process to this point, though the creepiness factor increases by increments. What becomes clear is that all the main characters have some hole in their lives that is filled by role-playing. It just so happens that, for a few characters, the idea of losing that hole-filler is enough to send them over the edge.

First-time feature filmmaker Alexandre Franchi shoots the outdoors amazingly claustrophobically an almost-oxymoric effect that contributes to the unsettling atmosphere of The Wild Hunt. It's not a slasher film, but it's far from feel-good either.

(This film is rated 14A)


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