Frank Olsen is a military war veteran just looking to get away from it all. He prefers the quiet seclusion of the icy woodlands of Atlanta, Michigan to the chaotic hustle and bustle of the real world. But as we all know, life has a habit of catching up to us all eventually, and Frank’s peaceful world of solitude is about to get irreparably shattered when he oversees a mysterious stranger dump a woman’s beaten and battered body on his land. Frank leaves his life of isolation behind to nurse the left-for-dead woman back to health, then shifts his steely focus to a new goal: exacting a little retribution on her cowardly attacker. Welcome to Zack Wilcox’s Hunting Lands.
Sound intriguing? Let’s dive in more!
Official Synopsis for Hunting Lands:
This film tells the story of reclusive veteran Frank Olsen who yearns to escape from the complexities of the modern world. Unfortunately, despite his efforts, the world comes looking for him. When he discovers a discarded, beaten woman fighting for her life in the snow, Frank must decide whether to continue to turn his back on society or confront the world he loathes.
You’re probably noticing a trend here. Reclusive. Solitude. Isolation. That’s a big chunk of the stark reality of Zack Wilcox’s Hunting Lands. At its best, it’s a masterclass in simplicity and minimalism. The cinematography is gorgeous with some breathtaking scenery. The musical score by Garron Chang is also very understated, simple yet effective, perfectly suited for the film in every aspect. Marshall Cook plays Frank Olsen to brooding perfection, the very embodiment of the grizzled war veteran turned mountain man: intense, no-nonsense, not much of a conversationalist. Hell, it’s a full 20+ minutes into the film before the first words are even uttered, and dialogue remains pretty sparse throughout. There’s definitely a very strong Hitchcock-ian influence here, in look and feel, the shots and angles chosen.
Unfortunately, what it boasts in style, I feel it lacks in substance. I love a good slow-burn if I feel like it really takes you somewhere. But where you’re hoping for some suspenseful unexpected twist or explosively satisfying climax, there is none. Everything here is very barebones cut and dry. There’s no mystery to solve, no real depth to the story.
Aside from Frank, there’s very little character development. We know absolutely nothing about the victim, and aside from rescuing her from certain death in the cold and getting her some medical treatment, Frank seems mostly disinterested in her, leaving her largely unattended to stalk her attacker. We’re given all the information we need, no more no less, and you can pretty much see the ending coming from a mile away. And where you’re hoping for some splash or flourish of excitement, the credits start rolling, leaving you completely deflated.
Final thoughts on Hunting Lands
This film had heaps of potential, but just ultimately fails to deliver. It’s a beautifully filmed slow-burn full of unrealized ideas and no compelling destination that left me completely unsatisfied. The gorgeous visuals and strong performances just aren’t enough to hold my interest. Maybe we should have just left Frank alone after all.