[Review] "Hunter's Weekend" is a fun film with shades of "What We Do in the Shadows" meets serial killers
Have you ever wondered what serial killers would be like if they hung out with other serial killers like normal, murderous psychopaths? Thanks to Hunter’s Weekend, we now have some idea of what that might be like…
…Written/directed by Amy Taylor, Hunter’s Weekend is a found footage horror-comedy that follows Victor (Christopher J. Young) and Lyle (Benjamin Guenther), two serial killers who are hosting a weekend in the woods which invites other killers to come hang out, eat some BBQ, and kill victims. But when one of the fellow “competitors” decides to begin knocking off the competition, the bumbling Victor and Lyle are on the case.
The instant Hunter’s Weekend opens, Victor and Lyle establish themselves as a pair of loveable idiots…which is odd, considering that these two are a couple of cold-blooded killers. Thus is the magic of movies, I suppose. With Lyle as the not-as-smart-as-he-thinks “leader” whom the sniveling Victor looks up to, the pair will remind many of Michael J. Scott and Dwight from The Office. Lyle is over-confident, considers himself a ladies man (he’s not), and is constantly bullying Victor and treating him as less than inferior, even though Victor is the more capable of the two, yet is also arguably more psychotic. The pair may be a couple of sick lady-killers, but the cleverness of Taylor’s script is just how fun these two are to watch together. Victor and Lyle are the heart and soul of Hunter’s Weekend, coming off as a couple of normal, endearing guys who just so happen to have a nasty habit. But if you were to meet them, they would just seem like your average losers at the bar, and who doesn’t like getting to root for the underdog?
Hunter’s Weekend borrows heavily from the structure of the popular 2014 film, What We Do in the Shadows. A vampire spoof which follows a group of vampiric roommates and the tongue in cheek monotony of daily life-the vampires argue over who will do the dishes-the film found its charm in painting vampires not as a bunch of snarling bloodsuckers, but as beings who are just like us, who screw up just like we do. Hunter’s Weekend does much the same. Victor and Lyle are not scary, and hardly ever register as anything even close to intimidating. Instead they’re quirky and entertaining, as are the rest of the bit players in the film, all playing eccentric killers who get more laughs than they do screams.
And make no mistake, Hunter’s Weekend is a funny flick, in a dry humor sort of way. Imagine Hunter’s Weekend as a nature show hosted by Steve Irwin (R.I.P.), only in this case, the host has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about, ever. Taylor fills her film with an abundance of dry wit, such as Victor’s obsession with wanting to try cannibalism, or Guenther/Lyle, delivering with as straight of a face as he can, “We have very strict rules against hunting other competitors”, followed by Victor poking in with “Unacceptable”. On paper, it may not make you cackle like a hyena, but Young and Guenther’s delivery are superb. It isn’t difficult to imagine these guys killing it on a late nigh sitcom, and I’ll be disappointed if that doesn’t happen for them.
What’s most interesting though is the feminist lens which Hunter’s Weekend is filmed through. Without spoiling anything, an interesting question is posed in the film, which asks, why aren’t female serial-killers more respected/revered? Think about it, off of the top of your head, how many real-life slasher ladies can you think of? Lizzie Borden, Elizabeth Bathory and…there just aren’t that many that are very well known. Same in film. Nearly every iconic face in the horror genre belongs to a man, with very little representation amongst women. Lyle is even revealed to have zero respect for fellow female “hunters”, believing them to be inferior and hinting at a viewpoint that sees them as “weak”. Taylor explores the question with a refreshing tongue in cheek attitude that only adds to the pleasure of Hunter’s Weekend, and proves why more female directors in the genre should and must be given a chance. I’ve seen plenty of male slasher villains, it’s time for some women to take the mantle. And as for real life killers, well, sure, there have been plenty of female psychos through our history, and it is odd that more aren’t well known, but let’s be honest, it’s white males that make up most of that group, and it’s not exactly something the rest of us are proud of.
As is the case with most low-budget indie films though, the budget shows in Hunter’s Weekend, and it seriously hurts the overall quality. Taylor does her best to cover up the budget deficiencies when it comes to the bloodshed, but Hunter’s Weekend winds up falling flat where it should be at peak hilarity: the kills. Here we have a horror-comedy spoof on serial killers, with a wide range of all different types of loons that each have their preferred methods of dispatch, but likely due to money, all of the gore feels plain and lacks the energy of the rest of the film. Hunter’s Weekend is, after all, a silly spoof which is by no means meant to be taken seriously, and that sort of tone comes with the expectation that the kills will be just as over-the-top, but that isn’t the case here. Despite a respectable body count, no one’s death is particularly memorable.
Hunter’s Weekend also isn’t a very exciting film. Funny, yes, but the film struggles to create much suspense or tension. Being a comedy, it isn’t expected that Hunter’s Weekend be traditionally “scary”, but as a film dealing with a killer dispatching other killers, there is at least a desire for some sort of “action”, or a thrilling chase, maybe some eerie buildup to a character death, yet there is none of that. Once the twist is revealed and our killer is allowed to roam freely on screen, Taylor gets some life beating back into the bloodstream, but I wonder if Hunter’s Weekend might have worked better with the killer having more of a presence throughout.
Aside from Hunter’s Weekend’s flaws, the film is a delightfully entertaining faux documentary on the lives of serial killers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, thanks to the wild success of What We Do in the Shadows, this sort of spoof becomes much more prevalent in the genre over the next few years. Filmmakers have their pick at other popular horror villains to tackle, whether it be aliens, zombies, or whatever else, and there is still that sequel to What We Do in the Shadows focusing on werewolves which is coming soon to a full moon near you. Either way, Taylor has presented us with an enjoyable flick equipped with a unique look at gatekeeping in the genre, and I’d love to see what she is able to do with a bigger budget.
Hunter's Weekend does not yet have a release date.
By Matt Konopka