Spoiler-Free Film Review: “Hunting Daze” (SXSW)

March 14, 2024

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Writer/director Annick Blank’s French-language Canadian thriller Hunting Daze blends harshly realistic scenarios with dizzying drug-trip sequences. The result is a fascinating, often disturbing look at toxic masculinity. 

Sex worker Nina (Nahéma Ricci), after performing for a bachelor party in very rural Quebec, finds herself abandoning the rest of her group in anger and frustration. She asks Kevin (Frédéric Millaire-Zouvi), one of the party members, if she can stay there until a ride can be arranged for her. The group votes that to do so, she must pass some rites and become part of their self-professed wolf pack.

Rather than turning into the rape revenge thriller that some might expect, Nina finds herself in no such danger from the group, which parties hard before and after hunting. Another stranger — African man Doudos (Noubi Ndiaye) — shows up, adding another element of “The Other” to the group dynamics, as well as the suspense. When a dangerous accident occurs, paranoia and tension rise among the group members, leading them to consider actions about which not everyone agrees.

The members of the ensemble cast — which also includes Bruno Marcil, Marc Beaupré, Alexandre Landry, and Maxime Genois — all turn in fine work, investing their characters with airs of assertiveness, aggressiveness, fragility, and fear. Ricci stands out as a young woman who may be enjoying her time with the group, or may be acting the way she feels she needs to so that she can fit in until such time that she can leave.

Hunting Daze is an often hypnotic, often unsettling feature that earnestly attempts to tackle modern-day power dynamics between the sexes and different races. When you worry that it is headed down a certain path, Blank takes things in unexpected directions. She has crafted a truly chilling slice of cinema.

Hunting Daze screens as part of SXSW, which runs in Austin, Texas from March 8–16. For more information, visit https://schedule.sxsw.com/2024/search/film.


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