Review by Mark Schwab
November 14th, 2017
Ok I admit that I may have a bias here; I am truly exhausted by "found-footage" filmmaking. It's heyday peaked pretty early in its infancy with 1999's The Blair Witch Project and the only other film that really made any type of artistic impact using it was 2007's Paranormal Activity. Literally every other found-footage movie I've tried to sit through has numbed me into a glazed-eye coma of dullness.
The Blair Witch Project worked not because of the actual filmmaking (which was cheap and shoddy) but because it had a great concept, solid actors and a superb marketing team at Artisan Entertainment. Paranormal activity had a shallower concept but more craft in its filmmaking (and having Steven Spielberg tout the film certainly helped). Every other found footage movie I've seen only knows the notes and can't play any actual music. I will admit that writer/director Zach Zeman's HUNTERS' CROSSING tries to do something a little bit different by eschewing the horror genre in favor of comedy but it is not enough to overcome the constraints of a tired genre.
Our main character here is Hank Williams (Noah Schindler) and he is a hunting fanatic who enters a local competition. It is through there that we begin to meet a total rogues gallery of weirdo hunting folk ("This is what you do when this is what you do.") that cross Hank's path as well as get into a number of goofy sub plots. Most of this is accomplished by having the characters simply talk directly into the camera which was a problem for me - there are way too many talking heads who just go on and on about hunting in the first half of the movie. There is so much set up and exposition here that it grinds the movie to a halt before it can really get going. It makes a big assumption that an audience will just get caught up in the constant headshot interviews of folks acting like guests on Alex Jones' InfoWars conspiracy show. Now, granted, that is a very ripe subject to be mocked but HUNTERS' CROSSING doesn't go far enough with it - the characters we meet just don't make a big enough impression to stay with us through all the talking.
Actually, now that I think about it, the biggest disappointment with HUNTERS' CROSSING is that Zeman actually has created some colorful characters here and there is enough potential comic material for a great satire on hunting culture that gets hamstrung with shaky camerawork and inconsistent sound design (the limitations of "found footage" again). He also has cobbled together a diverse cast that - while not being the most accomplished thespians - throw themselves into their parts with energy. There is no question for me that Zeman was able to get this production up and running with an enthusiastic group of folks - no small feat there for an indie production. I feel that if the filmmakers did this as an actual movie and not a shaky cam, found-footage collage, they might have really been onto something.
If you are a fan of found-footage movies and enjoy seeing backwoods rednecks attempting to be ridiculed, then HUNTERS' CROSSING will probably entertain you enough (even I had a couple of smiles in this). However, I still see this as a missed opportunity. I'm willing to bet that if Zach Zeman used his energy, his abilities and his supportive cast and crew to go out and actually craft a movie in the traditional sense - writing a script, composing shots and telling a story through visuals - he'd be able to pull off something genuinely good and original. Hopefully HUNTERS' CROSSING is Zach Zeman's stepping stone to bigger and better films. I know I'd be curious to see more from him.