Let’s get this straight from the off. Happy Hunting is not the cinematic equivalent of your big brother’s BB gun popping you in the nether regions. No, Happy Hunting is a twelve-gauge shotgun of fun to the face. It starts by pistol whipping you across the kisser. Damn silly in places and with no place for pansy ideals like pathos, but hella’ fun.
Ok, so there was a time when every filmmaker wanted to be Tarantino (lately, Tarantino could do with aspiring to be Tarantino). The film clearly wears its heart on its sleeve in this respect, but what the filmmakers achieve here is neither homage nor pastiche. It somehow manages to elevate itself by virtue of that aforementioned sense of unbridled fun. That is not to say it doesn’t take itself seriously and there are no knowing winks to camera, it just leaves you grinning like a madman. Think From Dusk till Dawn meets The Hunger Games with what appears to be the backstory to Kill Bill’s Bud.
Raging alcoholic Warren is making his way to Mexico (aren’t we all in a way?) when he stumbles on the backwater town of Bedford Flats. Think any American ghost town ever, replete with seedy Sheriff, Yokels and even a couple of religious zealots. What Warren doesn’t realise is that each year the town puts on a sporting event of sorts, replacing the dogs with an assortment of weapon-wielding wackos and changing up the foxes for, well, Warren and a few other unfortunates.
The rest of the plot plays out as you would expect, but the joy of the film is in each of the hunters, their preferred methods of dispatch and the glee with which they exact them. Martin Dingle Wall absolutely hits the mark with his portrayal of Warren. What could easily steer close to a morality tale regarding the effects of his rampant drinking keeps just the right side of unreal without becoming flippant. Gary Sturm channels every greasy sleazy Sheriff you can think of and transmutes the character into something more akin to a charming cult leader while retaining both sides of the coin. Soon to be fan favourite must surely be C.J. Baker as the almost unstoppable sniper.
Written and directed by Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson, Happy Hunting pulls of that rare thing in low budget filmmaking - the holy triptych of incredible visuals, a script that pops and actors with more than the chops to pull it off. It’s also devastatingly funny, with quips that zing past the ear with a smiling nihilism. While it would be a stretch to say you feel for the lead characters, you certainly root for them. All filmed in California, it is both cinematic and filthy. And fun, hella’ fun - absolutely worth hunting down.
HAPPY HUNTING / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JOE DIETSCH, LOUIE GIBSON / STARRING: MARTIN DINGLE WALL, KEN LALLY, KENNY WORMALD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW