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In the future, nature is restricted and virtual games provide both the landscapes and the hunting grounds. A group of hunters will make it outside for a traditional hunt. Little do they know about what awaits them in the wild and how it will inevitably affect them. Set in the beautiful Canadian wilderness, in the French speaking province of Quebec, prepare to see a future, not so far from ours, where reality is somewhat more complex and intricate since the virtual world has reached an unprecedented level of reality that can easily fool your senses. Written by
Third Millenium Entertainment [au]
Hunting Grounds covers too much ground for its budget
In the near future, our planet is more and more depleted from its resources and over 90% of humanity is confined to urban areas, condemned to never see nature. Worse, more and more people rely on virtual reality (here called the alternet) to communicate or "visit" each others through holographic representations. Tired of experiencing nature through virtual games only, a group of friends decide to break free from the city and go on a real-life hunting trip along with a tracker. Unfortunately for them, this trip becomes more dangerous than they ever expected...
After watching this very ambitious independent sci-fi/horror film, I have mixed feelings. As written on my IMDb profile, I rate movies based on how good and entertaining they are, with no consideration for their budget. On the other hand, I must still take space here to commend the crew for doing rather well under difficult conditions.
Let's start with some positives:
The main plot is interesting. It is obvious to me that Bilodeau and Gagné knew the tropes of the genres well. There are definite nods to Romera-era films and the themes that were explored there. Zombies are not the main threat here, nor the main culprits; man is. It is the nature of men that we must be afraid of.
On the sci-fi front, we are firmly in the sub genres of cyberpunk, transhumanism. This is a dystopian world where many people have almost completely ceased actual in-the-flesh contact with each others. The Alternet subplot, along with the weird experiment turning wrong all underline social commentaries regarding our increasing reliance on artifices to live our lives.
A world is nothing without characters. Our writers give us five main characters and I must say I was impressed by how well they all filled a particular niche. Many of them again highlight all the social commentary Bilodeau is aiming for, although in some cases it is fairly awkward.
The movie has an incredibly large scope. You get weird compound shots, rather elaborate complexes and rooms, transportation. Lots of outdoor filming, blue screens. Digital effects and old school effects mixed together, action scenes... this isn't an indie film taking place in a condo. This is an attempt at making a Hollywood-scope movie on 20 grands.
And the final positive: a few of the scenes are rather creative ideas. Particularly the "zombie boss" as I will call it in order not to spoil the film.
Now the negatives:
First and foremost, the budget shows everywhere. Bilodeau attempts so much in the movie, that he doesn't succeed very often.
The world is nicely represented everywhere but most of it is obviously fake. You can't ever forget the effects or blue screens. I wish Bilodeau had concentrated efforts on finding few film locations, but BETTER locations instead.
The camera-work, the cinematography displayed... it's rather weak. Ditto for the editing, which severely hampers the whole movie and particularly the action sequences. The film score is overly dramatic at times, and completely flat at others. In short, as far as directing films, I'm not sure Bilodeau can quite do it. There were times when you could see it wasn't a matter of budget but of skills.
Although the backstory is nice, the actual plot, how the story unfolds is rather weak. Same thing for the characters which I praised. The five main characters are well-defined but character development is weak. Characterization is also weak and having complete amateurs follow a rigid script (no improv lines here) in a foreign language (most of these actors are obviously French Canadians) does not help.
There are times where you cannot understand what they say at all because the accent is so thick.
In short, Bilodeau makes me marvel with how MUCH he did with $20000. There are countless speaking roles, lots of extras, many action scenes. It's a story that Hollywood wouldn't shoot under 70 millions. And as far as smaller or foreign productions go, it would certainly require 20-30 millions at least to be done "right".
Bilodeau shows ingenuity to try to make up for lack of funds, but the low budget shows too much. I also applaud the intent of making a serious movie (this isn't one of those horror comedies) but again, very tough with a large scope and amateur actors reciting lines.
1-A MUST if you are any kind of amateur filmmaker looking to make ambitious stuff on a budget 2-Worth a look if you appreciate the genres listed 3-Worth a look if you like gonzo stuff or a "so bad it's good" movie
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