Happy Hunting, the feature-length debut from American filmmakers Happy Hunting Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson, is a neo-Grindhouse action thriller which takes place in a dilapidated Texas village populated by hillbillies celebrating their annual ‘hunt.’ And, as there are no more animals in the area, society’s undesirables and passers-by have taken their place as the new prey, and off-the-wagon addict Warren Novak (Martin Dingle Wall) must overcome the pains of going cold turkey – as well as being shot at – if he’s going to make it out alive.
Warren isn’t a sympathetic character – his own drunken mistakes lead him to his plight, and he arrives on the back of some questionable decisions following a meth deal gone wrong and subsequent self-destructive booze/drug binge. He’s a criminal, an addict and he’s falling apart, which isn’t exactly typical hero behaviour. However, his flaws are what makes him interesting and the bleak world Happy Hunting takes place in is one of hopeless situations, irredeemable characters and macabre thrills.
There’s nothing particularly new about Happy Hunting – you’ve seen this movie before if you’ve seen even just one typical backwoods/redneck exploitation flick. The premise is a simple chase movie, but it’s well-executed and the addict recovering subplot creates an interesting main character arc. The film works because of its savage simplicity and will provide satisfying fan service to bloodthirsty, hardcore genre fans – no-frills, no nonsense exploitation with a pitch-black sense of humour. Furthermore, at this moment in time, it can even be interpreted as an allegory of Trump’s America, where visitors aren’t exactly welcomed hospitably by all citizens – and these yokels don’t take too kindly to people passing through their town.
At the end of the day, Happy Hunting is unadulterated savage fun, made by hardcore genre fans for their own kind. You’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it done better, but if you’re a fan of films of this ilk, then Happy Hunting will hit your sweet spot sufficiently enough. It’s not a game changer, but it does play the game admirably.
Words: Kieran Fisher