The 2000s and early 2010s have been a good time to be a nerd, with “nerd culture” becoming seemingly more prevalent in the pop-cultural landscape every day, especially where movies are concerned. Genre movies are getting more nominations and even a few wins for prestigious awards that were previously dominated by arty dramas about World War 2 and no summer movie season is complete without at least a few massively-financed adaptations of semi-obscure comic book characters. Hell, they made a sequel to Tron for God’s sake. It wasn’t very good, but hey at least they tried right?
And now someone’s made a movie about LARP-ing. Ye Gods. For those of you who don’t know, LARP-ing is Live Action Role Playing. Basically take Dungeons and Dragons out of the basement, add more costumes and guys bashing each other other over the heads with foam swords and you got a LARP going. These are the nerds of the nerd world, people.
The Wild Hunt is a 2009 film made right here in Montreal and parts of Quebec about a normal guy (or “normie” as I like to call them) named Erik (Ricky Mabe) whose girlfriend and brother get into LARP-ing. He doesn’t seem to give two toots about his bro, but where his lady is concerned he’s none too pleased about this, and after she departs for the woods to run around calling herself a viking princess, he decides to go after her to try save their rapidly imploding relationship.
Things get bad, however, when one of the teams of LARP-ers get a little too into it and start playing for real, trading foam weapons and role-playing for something more deadly. The resulting movie is not totally what I’d call “good” but I would call it “Interesting.”
In today’s nerd-dominated world, the film offers a glimpse of some insanely charged themes and imagery. There’s one scene in particular where our hero arrives at the LARP-ing grounds clad in normal contemporary clothes and gets laughed and stared at for it.
Make no mistake, he gets “The Look”, and if you’re one of my fellow nerds, you probably know exactly the kind of look I mean. That mix of pity and arrogant revulsion, the upturned lips and condescending eyes.
Once upon a time this is the look you’d get for having thick enough glasses or wearing a superhero themed t-shirt. Now the roles have been reversed and the normie is getting it from people dressed in full Elven garb. That’s some pretty biting commentary right there. The ostracized have become the ostracizers.
What I do have trouble with, however, is nailing down the film’s intent. Especially with the later insanity and “nerds on the rampage,” the film could easily be seen as a kind of contemporary equivalent to Mazes and Monsters, a novel-turned TV movie from the 80s about a Dungeons and Dragons player who suffers a mental break and loses the ability to distinguish fantasy and reality. But is this really a movie about how LARP-ing leads to murder? No, of course not, but it does touch on similar themes, like the dangers of escapism.
It’s hard to tell if the film is ultimately a statement against the current state of affairs and new found trend of nerd-empowerment, as the previously mentioned scene would suggest, or if it’s celebrating this aspect of nerd-culture and “damning it with faint praise.”
Where things fall apart for me is the characters. To be honest, there’s no one relateable for me, and no one with a definite motivation to help me understand them.
Erik is the scared normie, kind of generic and uninteresting and trying to understand and survive this strange world he’s been thrown into. His brother Bjorn (Mark A. Krupa) is so far gone into his own fantasy that he usually comes off as kind of sad and doofy most of the time. Perhaps if his fierce dedication to escapism were explored more, he would be more compelling. His and Eric’s father is presented as being basically on death’s door, so perhaps he can’t deal with the reality of that and uses LARP-ing to escape that? Sadly, the movie never addresses this.
Worst of all is the girlfriend, Lynn (Kaniehtiio Horn). She’s fickle, flighty, bitchy, and just unlikeable as hell. Her allegiances and relationships change based on who she’s in the scene with, and I repeatedly found myself wondering why Eric is going to so much trouble for her. And when the driving force of the plot is the re-unification of a couple, you have to WANT to see them get back together, and I never did. More than anything I wanted to see Eric wake up and realize he can do better and leave, possibly getting together with the nice referee lady on the way.
End of the day, The Wild Hunt left me unsatisfied. The movie had tons of potential for biting commentary, but seemed to shy away from taking a stand. Perhaps this was intentional, leaving the audience to judge for itself, but authorial intent is irrelevant so it’s a moot point. The film comes off less as open to interpretation and more as unsure of itself.
If you’re interested in seeing an aspect of nerd-culture that rarely gets little exposure even in the nerd community itself, give The Wild Hunt a look. If you’re looking for something more insightful and thematically charged, perhaps look elsewhere.
Before you decide, give the trailer a look!