Film Review | Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a Perfect Blend of Dark Humour and Heartfelt Storytelling

You should go see this movie.

Director Taika Waititi has followed up 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows, a vampire mockumentary, with a hilarious and (really, i promise) touching coming of age story about a troubled kid and his reluctant father figure surviving deep in the New Zealand wilderness. Both of these movies are, at their core, about different types of male bonding. One is a bromance in wolf and vampire’s clothing. The other’s about a surrogate father/son connection as a classic ‘outlaws on the run’ story.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in cinemas from Friday 16th September. -
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in cinemas from Friday 16th September. Source

The plot concerns Ricky (Julian Dennison), the pettiest of troublemakers, who is relocated to a foster home in the middle of nowhere. He is explicitly told that no one else wants him. He’s met by Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill). Ricky, Bella and Hectah, the ‘Trifecta’ as Bella dubs them. Bella is desperate to love Ricky while Hector is desperate to be left alone to his work of hunting and sulking in the bush. Soon circumstances break up the Trifecta forcing Ricky and Hector to take to the forest. Ricky must learn to survive and both must avoid the unimpressed child services.

This is a story where laughter and darkness and sheer, silly joy all nestle side by side. Rather than conflict, these different strands actually strengthen one another. The film has real darkness and sadness between the goofy accents and pratfalls. By not shying away too much from the sad stuff Hunt for the Wilderpeople ensures that the set pieces arrive as gleeful, air punching moments of catharsis.


‘Sad stuff’ is oversimple. This isn’t just a funny thing followed by a sad thing. Waititi is interested in finding humour in stuff like the dumb ways people process trauma. Similarly he finds hope in the desperation of a lonely woman to love a stray kid and the way grief can bond people together. There’s light in the dark, dark in the light and great jokes throughout.

The cast are uniformly brilliant. Sam Neill’s grumpy hill person is a wonderful, comically hurt character. Rachel House gets to be a scene stealer as the psychotically driven child services agent who has catastrophically misunderstood the slogan ‘No child left behind’.

In a cameo, Waititi describes living life in this big, scary world as being ‘like a sheep trapped in a maze designed by wolves‘. It’s a daft thing said by a silly person and it feels like something a kid who watches too much telly would come out with. It’s also feels kinda true. As a moment, it sums up a lot about this movie. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is more moving than most tearjerkers and funnier than most comedies. It’s almost too good.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is in cinemas from Friday 16th September. Check out the trailer below

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