SXSW Film Review: Hunting Daze: Midnighter is an unpleasant nightmare of toxic masculinity – SXSW – Austin Chronicle

If you’ve ever wondered how a filmmaker would visualize toxic masculinity – not in script or performance, but in the visual language of a film – then wonder no more. Hunting Daze is a merciless foray into the true ugliness of men behaving badly.
When sex worker Nina (Nahéma Ricci) is left stranded in the Canadian countryside after a bachelor party, she has no choice but to turn to her former clients for support. After a group vote, they decide to let her stay with them for the weekend – but only if she agrees to live, drink, and hunt as one of the “wolves.” To her surprise, Nina finds herself enjoying being one of the boys; but when a new arrival and a careless mixture of narcotics and firearms turns the weekend upside down, Nina must decide how far she’ll go back to be a member of the pack.
Despite being programmed in the Midnighter category at SXSW, Hunting Daze does not fit cleanly into any one genre. The film does dabble in horror, but the tone is harder to pin down, often moving from one dreamlike sequence to another as Nina grows closer to her newfound friends. What is certain about Hunting Daze is that it is a deeply unpleasant film and one that develops its own unique visual shorthand for the corrosive energy of men. From the bloody carcasses of animals to a lodge overflowing with empty beers and half-eaten food, the movie twists its mundane setting into something ugly to behold.
Director Annick Blanc and cinematographer Vincent Gonneville shoot much of the movie in extreme closeup. Entire sequences play out via the leering faces of drunken men; even a hardened horrorhound like myself – no stranger to the ugliness of the human body onscreen – teetered on the edge of overstimulation throughout. From a filmmaker’s perspective, it’s an aggressive choice, one that visually conveys how Nina could be both repulsed and intoxicated by the men who take her under their wing. But it somehow causes Hunting Daze to feel more profane than movies otherwise more explicit in their violence.
There were long periods of screen time where I was convinced that I hated Hunting Daze. There were also moments of beauty – both violent and otherwise – that illustrated the firm grasp Blac has on her subject matter. I may never make a full-throated recommendation for what Blanc has concocted, but I confess I also want nothing more than to seek out five-star reviews of the film. Just don’t ask me to experience this on a 50-foot screen ever again.

Hunting Daze

Midnighter, World Premiere

Monday, March 11, 7pm, Alamo South Lamar
Thursday, March 14, 9pm & 9:30pm, Violet Crown
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SXSW Film 2024, Hunting Daze, Annick Blanc
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