I really wanted to like Happy Hunting, the new horror film from director Joe Dietsch. It was the first film I saw on the first full day of the Chattanooga Film Festival, and I was ready to be swept away by some crazy genre fun. Unfortunately, Happy Hunting offers a stale plot and leaves viewers with an ever-present feeling of “been there, done that”. We’ve seen this before, and we’ve seen it done better.
Warren Novak finds himself stranded in a small town near the Mexican border. He spends his days drinking and waiting for a phone call that will send him on his mission to find his daughter (I think). The townspeople are all varying degrees of creepy, and there are a number of signs telling Warren to get the hell out of town. But, who heeds an obvious warning in a horror film?
In so many genre films, the audience waits patiently through a tedious build-up for the moment that everything kicks into gear and the mayhem begins. In that regard, Happy Hunting is an anomaly: it becomes less interesting when the action commences. The suspense is the fear of what’s to come. When the plot fully reveals itself, the film stalls. The action sequences are generic, and the editing is so choppy that at times it’s hard to tell what’s happening.
When it comes to lower budget genre films, a filmmaker needs to take one of two approaches. You can offer a unique spin on a well-worn concept and make it your own. Or, you can use an idea that we’ve seen time and time again, but execute it so well, with so much flair, that the audience doesn’t care about its lack of originality. Unfortunately, Happy Hunting does neither.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.