starring Travis Aaron Wade, Tina Huang, Howard Johnson, Trevor Bullock, and Les Claypool
directed by Jim Isaac
screenplay by Robert Mailer Anderson & Zach Anderson
Phase 4 Films (2010)
I almost included this one with my Monster Movie Marathon back in October, but there was just one problem: the actual monster doesn't appear on screen until the last ten minutes. The preceding ninety minutes of film are drenched in hillbilly horror that has surprisingly little to do with the fact that there's a 3,000 lb. wild boar stalking the Appalachian wilderness.
Oh wait, it's not Appalachia, it's California. They fooled me, because the setting looks like Appalachia and the accents sure sound non-Californian. But since northern California is the capital for grow-ops in the U.S., and there is a doozy of a marijuana field that comes into play in this movie, I guess that's reason enough to insult the audience's intelligence. Just as well the filmmakers insult ours since they provide so little to the characters they created.
A quartet of soldiers back from Iraq want to spend some time together out in the woods. You know, that classic bromance bonding experience. The main character (Wade) inherited his dead uncle's abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere , so they'll go camping and hunting there. Never mind that his three friends exhibit zero hunting experience, the pudgy one even showing an aversion to guns and the whole notion of hunting, and he inexplicably takes along his girlfriend who doesn't seem to like any of his friends at all. He doesn't even seem keen on going because he broods the entire way there. In fact, the whole group seems ill-fit on screen when you stop to think about it, but that's the problem: thinking is counter-productive when watching this film.
So, the get-along gang heads out to the sticks and immediately runs afoul of a menacing hippie with a giant machete, a random occurrence only there to forebode a future encounter.. No sooner do they spend their first night in the woods and meet up with the hometown boy's two creepy childhood friends--or maybe they were cousins (doesn't matter). They invite themselves along for a hog hunt and even more tension between the group is established. At this point, I'm really questioning why any of these people are friends with each other. The pudgy friend is unarmed--so why he went along defies reason--complains incessantly about being there, and he brings a dog that doesn't hunt. Sufficed to say that I was rooting for his death early on.
The interactions between characters were pretty good once the hunt was on, though it's more for catchy one-liners than anything meaningful. Again, thinking is counter-productive. The hog hunt goes bad when one of them is injured. A huge marijuana grow-up is discovered and leads to a Mexican stand-off with a bloody end. Vengeful hillbillies invade and start chasing everyone down. And that ominous hippie returns to lead survivors back to the hippie commune. The entire notion that there is a monstrously gigantic wild hog is only implied through anecdotal talk and a horse killed off screen at the start of the movie.
The movie is a mishmash of things that I would have otherwise found quite entertaining. Deliverance style hillbilly hatred, bare-chested hippie babes, a sassy girlfriend who's a crack shot with a rifle, guns, knives, and a giant monster in the woods. The problem is that nothing really relates to the other and the entire plot seems very forced for the sake of including all those cool elements. In the "On the Hunt" featurette, the filmmakers talk about allusions to war, environmentalism, and all manner of sociopolitical hotspots, but I honestly saw none of that. The movie is not that topical.
The movie is a merciful in sticking with practical effects the whole way out. And Les Claypool's contributions to the score are a real treat with the twangy rhythms adding to the atmosphere, but the movie as a whole winds up being a mildly entertaining mess.