Initially, The Wild Hunt seems like yet another slice of prosaic Canadian hokum, with Erik (Ricky Mabe) living a substandard existence, looking after his father and suffering relationship problems with Evelyn (Tiio Horn), who runs off to join Erik's brother, Bjorn (Mark A. Krupa), for a long weekend of live-action Viking role-playing.
We're meant to giggle about the men in costumes fighting with foam swords, as Erik enters their world in plainclothes to rekindle the romance with his girlfriend, often mocking their makeup and wardrobe. And aside from some deliberate pacing and unique stylization hinting at something more, the film's set on this path of predictability, with a glib message of embracing difference and freeing one's mind.
This brilliant deception, coupled with a sharp but fluent tonal transition during the final acts, is what essentially makes this implicit social criticism so affecting and gut wrenching. In fact, nary an audience member will be able to walk out of the theatre without picking their jaw up off the ground.
While some of this shock does indeed stem from an unrelenting mixture of unnerving visuals and sound, a profound understanding of inherent folly in patriarchal constructs and the nature of male domination extend the implication of The Wild Hunt beyond the screen and into a culture that most blindly embrace.
It's no mistake that the characters in the film are all white, save one Mexican that won't play by the rules, nor is it a mistake that the initially amusing male tendency to pull a hissy-fit when someone spoils their "game" quickly turns terrifying. Women are allowed into the world, yes, but merely as objects useful only when they obey the rules.
Those uninterested in the deceptively simple plot of "boys playing with toys" may find themselves surprised with just how engrossing and incisive this little portrait of manhood is, should they give it a chance.
In fact, those that are turned off the most by the premise may find the film that much more meaningful, as those criticized in the movie are more likely to shrug it off and dismiss it. (TVA)