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“Hunting for the Hag” proves there are surprises left in found footage, even for a film that takes us into the woods for some witch hunting.

Hunting for the Hag

“Watch all of it.”

Three young women, Tara, Beth, and Candy, embark on a supernatural adventure. In the woods of central Illinois, the folk legend of the Hawthorne Hag is said to reside.  The witch has never been seen or proven to exist, but these three have the maps, wherewithal, and enthusiasm to make a serious documented attempt.

This may sound a tad familiar to almost all found footage fans. However, as you experience the film’s surprises, you will completely forget about any similarities to other films, including The Movie Which Will Not Be Named.

For starters, Hunting for the Hag — directed by Paul A. Brooks and co-written by Brooks and Sierra Renfro — begins not as a found footage film but as a traditionally constructed movie with a beautifully saturated color palette.

Our journey begins in an interrogation office. Daniel Roebuck, playing an unnamed attorney, questions filmmaker Tara about the footage we’re all about to see.  Tara insists he watches all of it from the beginning, and he does — as we do.

This is a good way to draw the audience into jumping aboard. Viewers assume, rightfully so, that something crazy will happen when they least expect it.

One guarantee of horror fun in a modern found-footage movie is the selfie. It isn’t a horror movie “sin” yet, officially, but it has definitely become a teaching tool for horror characters to avoid. Pay close attention to your surroundings, not how cute you look in those surroundings. When the ladies take a gas station selfie, it feels mundane, and we actually forget about it being foreshadowing. Then, halfway through the movie, it becomes a selfie that hits like a clawhammer.

The first act of Hunting for the Hag moves along as expected, except for some antics by Beth and Candy that suggest they have something cooking on the stove for Tara.

One of the eerie features in the Hawthorne Hag legend is the enormous tree from which she was hung. After some late-night exploring, they encounter it. Under the night sky, it seems ominous and intimidating and looks something like the tree in 2011’s Hollow (a highly recommended found footage movie).

They are very excited to get to the tree but regret it when, all of a sudden, a noose appears hanging from the tree.

Something about it doesn’t look quite right. It looks too new, almost like it was pre-planned to be there.

Giving everything away from here would be a crime against nature, so just plan on this movie going nutty at the tree (Dad joke, pun intended).  The movie’s tone then changes drastically, in a way a lot won’t see coming.

The big bad quickly becomes three giggling and leering good ol’ boys.

It’s disorienting; you can actually hear and feel the gears of the movie change.

Fear of a folktale is replaced with the very real fear of unpredictable armed and horny hillbillies. It goes without saying that we are now in a very different kind of horror movie.

Minute by minute, we anxiously watch the encounter between the girls and the rednecks, dreading the moment they . . .

Not a chance, dear reader. After all, haven’t we forgotten about The Hag? A movie called Hunting for the Hag that deals with THIS?

Yes, and no.

This is a fresh and nail-biting found footage concoction with many twists and surprises, many of which you may not see coming.  

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5
Hunting for the Hag had a recent showing at the 2024 Unnamed Footage Festival (UFF), where it was screened for this review.

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