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The Wild Hunt

Year: 2009
Language: English
Format: 35mm/Colour
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Alexandre Franchi
Producer: Alexandre Franchi, Karen Murphy
Executive Producer: Josée Vallée, Richard Speer, Mark A. Krupa, Pierre Even
Editor: Stephen Philipson, Arthur Tarnovski
Sound: Christian Bouchard
Music: Gabriel Scotti, Vincent Hänni Hänni
Production Company: Aminmist Films, Inc., Mad Monkey Films
Principal Cast: Mark A. Krupa, Ricky Mabe, Tiio Horm, Trevor Hayes, Nicolas Wright, Terry Simpson
Production Designer: Katka Hubacek

In a dark forest, an ancient European ritual is about to take place. A battle is brewing between the power-hungry Celts, the rampaging Vikings, the secretive wood elves and the mysterious shaman Murtagh (Trevor Hayes). The night has finally come for Murtagh to unleash his latest fiendish scheme. But in the heat of battle, the worst happens: one of his men is hit five times and the referee rules him dead – he’s out of the game until he can regenerate. Even worse, someone breaks character, the most egregious transgression possible in this elaborate game of dress-up.

Clever and intense, The Wild Hunt is set in the fantasy-reality of a large role-playing game (often referred to as LARPing or live action role-playing). The film’s story mirrors that of the legend behind the game: Erik (Ricky Mabe) goes looking for his girlfriend, Evelyn (Tiio Horn), who has left him for the game. (Mabe and Horn were also seen together in Jacob Tierney’s 2009 film The Trotsky.) He will need the help of his brother Bjorn (Mark A. Krupa, who co-wrote the script with Franchi), who happens to be the Viking leader and owner of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. (Erik has been storing the weapon on a shelf at his place). Erik’s entry into the game angers the dedicated players when he refuses to role play, setting fantasy and reality on a collision course on the night of the wild hunt’s re-enactment.

The Wild Hunt is the first feature from Alexandre Franchi, and it smacks of geek authenticity, thanks to its setting in the pseudo-medieval village of Duché de Bicoline, a role-playing venue near Shawinigan, Quebec. Many actual players served as background actors. The film disguises itself well, rapidly changing tone and crafting an unnerving atmosphere that keeps you on edge. The superb cast lends necessary naturalism and humour while acting like people acting. Capturing the culture of costume play and the potentially dangerous intersection of real and made-up worlds, The Wild Hunt is a potent comment on the consuming nature of adopting another identity, even within a game, and the modern yearning for ritual.

The Wild Hunt premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for best Canadian first feature film and screened at Slamdance Film Festival, where it won the audience award for best film. It was named one of Canada’s Top Ten films of 2009 by an independent panel of Canadian filmmakers, programmers, journalists, and industry professionals and in 2011, the film was nominated for two Genie Awards (best cinematography and best costume design).

By: Jesse Wente