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Hunting Daze Review: Folk Horror Meets Fraternity

A group of people in the forest in the film Hunting Daze

A powerful horror film that depicts the ugly nature of toxic masculinity and groupthink, Hunting Daze deserves praise for its nearly perfect execution.

Folk horror meets fraternity in the nightmarish Hunting Daze, a haunting film with prescient insights about toxic masculinity. In Annick Blanc’s latest film, exotic dancer Nina (Nahéma Ricci) is stranded in the far North and takes shelter with five men on their bachelor hunting trip. She must perform wild tasks as part of her “initiation” but then she feels a deep sense of belonging with her newfound posse.

Headed by Ricci’s somber and powerful performance, Hunting Daze is the perfect combination of humor, horror, folklore, and psychological thrills. The line between otherworldly, dreamlike experiences and horrifying realities continually shifts, leaving viewers in doubt of what they really know about the film. In this way, the film cleverly avoids predictability, barring a few moments that lean into horror tropes. The overall arc of the film, however, is surprising. The climax is unique and perfectly emphasizes the message Blanc wants to share.

Whether in reality or the group’s nightmares, there is a distinct emphasis on their survival as a group. At times, certain characters are studied individually (especially Nina), but their rises and falls occur in tandem, an eerie revelation of the film’s cult-like undertones. Hunting Daze shows the animalistic, irrational, and unhinged tendencies of men: they hunt, party, fight, and face unspeakable horrors together. One of the clear aspects of the film is the strangeness of groupthink. Nina does find a strong sense of community and belonging in the group, especially as they commit themselves to madness in the middle of nowhere; but the film’s progression reveals how dangerous it is to blindly follow the decision of the majority. They find solidarity in their shared thinking, but none of the men are truly thoughtful.

The cinematography in this film is incredible. Vincent Gonneville seamlessly weaves the serenity of nature together with the grim nightmares Nina experiences. The framing of nearly every shot brings a sense of dread and realism to the film as it unfolds. In the same way, Peter Venne’s score suits the film’s constant anxiety perfectly, never distracting from the terrors on-screen but heightening the tension in the most important moments.

A woman has a bandage over her eyes in the film Hunting Daze
Hunting Daze (ArtHood Entertainment / SXSW 2024)

Each moment unfolds almost of its own accord: there is a sense that no one in this film is truly in control of what happens, and that feeling is directly transferred to the viewer as the plot unravels. Nina finds both joy and terror in losing control over her life, and Hunting Daze balances this maddening descent well. Even the film’s clear scenes condemning toxic masculinity, where gaslighting and unfair treatment of Nina occur, fit well within the overall narrative. While some films weaken their premise by making a strong and relevant claim, Hunting Daze reimagines the problem of toxic masculinity within a folkloric story so the horrors of the film are closely related to those of its subject matter.

Hunting Daze is a powerful horror film that depicts the ugly nature of toxic masculinity and groupthink. Ricci’s performance as a lone wolf temporarily welcomed into a pack of predators is chilling and irresistible. Hunting Daze deserves high praise and buzz for its haunting premise and nearly perfect execution.

Hunting Daze was screened at SXSW on March 9-14, 2024. Read our SXSW reviews and our list of films to watch at SXSW 2024!

Hunting Daze Trailer (Letterboxd)
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