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Happy Hunting (2017) Review

Happy Hunting is a 2017 horror film about an alcoholic drifter who must battle withdrawal and psychotic rednecks after he becomes the target of a deranged sporting event.

The premise, or at least major threads of it are a familiar one, that of a man hunted for sport, à la The Most Dangerous Game. However, Joe Dietsch and Lucian Gibson‘s latest Happy Hunting has plenty original in it to keep it standing well to the side, a rough, dark, and sometimes jarringly effective thriller that while certainly flawed, makes for a stylistic, disturbing experience.

Small-time meth dealer Warren (Martin Dingle Wall) is living on the brink of destruction. He’s got no money, he’s nearly lost his house, and is saddled with rampant alcoholism. He gets a call one day from a mysterious voice that informs him he’s got a young daughter now without a mother. Problem is, she’s in Mexico, and deciding to go get her has a drug deal go sour, ending in murder, putting him on the run. However, that only gets worse as he heads for the border and stops at a humble small town called Bedford Flats. Asked if he’s staying or passing through (by many), he soon befriends Steve (Ken Lally) but finds himself caught in a local tradition based on the town’s animal hunting history. Trapped with the very men who were chasing him, now all Warren has to do is stay alive.

Senseless death, at least in the minds of the hunters of Bedford Flats, is skirted by making all the ‘victims’ be men of ill-repute, drifters, druggies, and alcoholics. What Dietsch and Gibson do to help smooth the edge of the brutality is to build some depth into the backstory, spending a good deal of time coloring in who and what Warren is, which really helps in giving his struggle more meaning. In fact, the opening thirty minutes are so good, it could have been the start of a whole different story. Warren’s troubling, sometimes crippling addiction is the real story, and undoubtedly the metaphor behind it all, even as the story devolves continually into a macabre house of horrors in the desert.

The film stumbles a bit with pacing, especially once the hunt begins, though with only a few targets, fortunately it’s not an endless stream of needless gore. This is much more a character study than a slasher movie, even as there are plenty of gruesome moments. Where it weakens mostly is the idea that an entire town is comprised of homicidal maniacs who take to the hunt once a year in bloodlust that serves as the biggest stretch. On top of that, there’s not much innovation in the latter half as Happy Hunting settles into a pretty standard survival film with copious bits of blood.

Still, it’s plenty good to look at, the sepia-toned desert a gorgeous backdrop to the carnage. While the film as a whole is a worthy addition to the genre, it’s Warren, and Wall’s performance of him that are truly the best thing going for it. This is a dark and sinister story, with gobs of satire, and though it loses a bit of momentum in the middle, is going to satisfy fans of the genre.

Happy Hunting (2017) Review

Movie description: Happy Hunting is a 2017 horror film about an alcoholic drifter who must battle withdrawal and psychotic rednecks after he becomes the target of a deranged sporting event.

Director(s): Joe Dietsch, Louie Gibson

Actor(s): Martin Dingle Wall, Ken Lally, Kenny Wormald

Genre: Horror

  • Our Score
User Rating 4.4 (5 votes)
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