The main cast of Hunting Daze armed with guns in the forest | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: ‘Hunting Daze’ Review — A Bloody Bachelor Party Gone Wrong

“You must agree to live like a wolf with us according to the laws of the pack.”

Warning: Slight spoilers ahead for Hunting Daze.

As the horror scene at SXSW kicks off, Hunting Daze offers not just the scary but the thought-provoking in its existence. The French naturalistic horror flick follows a young exotic dancer by the name of Nina (Nahéma Ricci) as she finds herself joining a bachelor party in the middle of the woods after being stranded by her troupe. Yet, she isn’t there to dance, shmooze, or have a good time. She is there out of survival — it’s her only option since she’s abandoned on the side of the road.

“You must agree to live like a wolf with us according to the laws of the pack,” states one of the more burly, commandeering attendees of the woodsy bachelor soiree. The group leaves her inclusion up to democracy, all voting on whether she can stay, posing a thumbs up or thumbs down while she is blindfolded.

What Is ‘Hunting Daze’ About?

A woman named Nina (Nahéma Ricci) with horror in her eyes and a face covered in blood | Agents of Fandom
Nina must re-evaluate her role in the testosterone-fueled ecosystem she stumbles upon in Hunting Daze. Image Credit: Arthouse Entertainment/SXSW.

Ultimately, the group allows her residency, forcing her to partake in an animalistic initiation — a slow-motion montage of Nina balancing an egg on a spoon in her mouth while the rowdy men (read boys) around her fire off their rifles and pound their beers. Quickly after she is officially inducted into the debaucherous group, one more new face arrives in the form of Dudos (Noubi Ndiaye); another stranded soul looking for belonging who has found a wolf pack to join.

Dudos quickly finds his footing among the group only to bring with him a dark energy, eliciting some weird actions from those around him that promise to keep viewers on their toes throughout the entirety of the film. After all, beer, bachelors, and bad energy isn’t necessarily the best elixir for a safe weekend.

It’s from this moment on that the film enters a dreamlike state, floating out metaphors, ideas, themes, and visuals that possess an unyielding force equal to Mother Nature herself. Nina begins having nightmares — the first of which features her about to be burned at the stake in the middle of the dense shrubbery surrounding her with a floating rifle that’s on fire staring her down.

The Metaphors in ‘Hunting Daze’ Are Worth Unpacking If You Can Find Them

Beautifully shot by director of photography Vincent Gonneville, Hunting Daze elicits a daze-like state of visuals, lulling the viewer into an almost drug-induced, entranced state of an overwhelming nature — in the best way. The nightmares continue with increasing perplexity and as the film delves deeper into the darker side of things, Nina’s true intentions are challenged amongst the group.

Packed with lofty themes and metaphors that sometimes go nowhere, the haze of “what does it all mean?” can feel defeating at times. Yet, the metaphors that resonate do so with prowess, positing juxtapositions between animals and humans and searching for the towering answer to “what makes us human?” almost like a needle in a haystack.

Is it our compassion for one another, no matter strangers or close wolf-pack-like brethren, that sets us apart from the animalistic core of those that inhabit the forest? Or is it the capability of molding the “hunger” for dominance that creates the chasm between human and animal? With a quippy script and startling visuals, Hunting Daze succeeds at unearthing conversations surrounding those ideas while allowing for guidance from some pretty dark humor.

It does feel a bit dense and hard to grasp sometimes, but Hunting Daze is a project that beckons for rewatches to hunt for more answers — something that isn’t inherently bad and possibly even a shining quality among the single-watch scraps big studios are releasing as of late. The world premiere at SXSW is an exciting one that offers variety from the ever-popular slasher genre.

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'Hunting Daze' SXSW 2024 Review

'Hunting Daze' SXSW 2024 Review
3.5 5 0 1
Total Score

The Good

  • A thinking person's horror-adjacent movie with a quick runtime keeps things intriguing.
  • Fascinating and haunting visuals that will stick with you.

The Bad

  • Over-dense and packed with metaphors that can elicit confusion.
  • Fails to truly lean into the horror genre, keeping it from getting truly dark.
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