‘Tell Them It Was the Wilderpeople! (Alright?)’: Revisiting 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Spoilers Ahead)

It is typically advised that all writing is rewriting and that the best of the former is very, intensively the latter.

In the buildup to that vein, please stow your pitchforks, really, director Oliver Stone’s 1994 feature film, Natural Born Killers is pervasive.

Whether consciousness-cutting montages or commentary on media are important to you (or not), 1994’s Natural Born Killers is a film which colours how you see all other films, especially those with echoes of it.

It is a lens of the (critiquing) mind.


(from left to right) Stars Rhys Darby and Sam Neill, director/screenwriter Taika Waititi, star Julian Dennison and producers Leanne Saunders (front), Carthew Neal (back), Matt Noonan and James Wallace at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival premiere of their 2016 feature film, Hunt For The Wilderpeople (MovPins.com Photo and Caption)

Much like 1994’s Natural Born Killers, albeit with much less explicitness, director/screenwriter Taika Waititi’s 2016 feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople carries echoes of how media coverage may show an event’s superficial parts alone, whilst losing the personal side of things (à la Ricky and Hec’s escape to the woods being depicted as a dash for freedom but without discussion of Hec’s case).

Also, that government procedure may be dehumanising or objectifying for some, especially people passed between different departments (akin to how Rachel alludes to a ‘no returns‘ policy to Bella, Ricky’s ‘they just keep moving us around until something happens’ talk with Hec, and Paula’s capture of Ricky with the words, ‘I’ve got the package!‘).

Sticking with the Stone-isms vis-à-vis 2016’s Snowdenthat the scale of government surveillance is wide (shown by how far away from society Bushman/Psycho Sam has to live, Paula’s allusion to the Five Eyes surveillance programme in, ‘that’s some Five-Eye shit right there!’ and Hec’s alarm at Bushman/Psycho Sam’s repair of Ricky’s phone, ‘you idiot, what’ve you done?‘)

Separately, the film also asks what it means to be a man or versions thereof (as seen in Ricky’s quest for gangsterdom, the hunters’ bullying of and sycophancy towards each other, and Hec’s actions through it all)?


(from left to right) Stars Sam Neill, Rhys Darby and Julian Dennison and director/screenwriter Taika Waititi (NewsTalkZB.co.nz Photo)

That being said, and whilst Hec couldn’t have spoken to the press anyways in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the film does convey how an intensely personal escape is shown only an event which makes its subjects famous. Kahu’s conversation with Ricky over that was important.

The objectification of people goes further than either Paula or Ricky’s words, it also includes Hec’s remarks whether Ricky had ‘ever worked on a farm before or (are) you just ornamental?’

Hec does change enough to tell Ricky, ‘you’ll be better off without me, mate’ by the film’s epilogue though the film’s objectification connotations are already made.

The film’s allusions to government surveillance are important, with Paula’s allusion to the Five-Eyes intelligence group (‘that’s some Five-Eye shit right there!’) and Hec’s aversion to Bushman/Psycho Sam modifying Ricky’s phone. The most visible example of this is Bushman/Psycho Sam’s life away from society and its benefits, à la the dusty biscuit scene with Ricky and Hec.

The film’s final question, as shown by Ricky’s aspirations to gangsterdom but fear of blood, the hunters’ inconsistency in facing Hec and Hec’s actions through the film.

The subjective answer, as given by Ricky to Paula in the forest, would be that, ‘you don’t trade family for anything!’.

In that vein, the answer is that men defend those who need them and don’t betray each other. This contrasts with the hunters’ inconsistency between facing down Hec and Ricky, backing down and tracking them for the government’s reward.


Director/screenwriter Taika Waititi at the New Zealand premiere of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Zimbio.com Photo and Caption)

The above being said, director/screenwriter Taika Waititi’s 2016 feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is subtly surveillance-conscious but still entertaining when seen again.

Quite the millennial coming-of-age comedy.


Director/screenwriter Taika Waititi at the New Zealand premiere of 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Fiona Goodall/GettyImages.com Photo and Caption)

Director Taika Waititi’s Trademarks in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople:

  1. Stories about companionship: the growing relationship between Hec and Ricky keeps  them going despite government opposition.
  2. Time-lapse photography: Ricky’s first escape into the mountains is filmed in time-lapse whilst two government pursuit montages link events together via a continuous rotating camera pan.
  3. Symmetrical photography: Continuing the trend from 2007’s Eagle vs Shark until present, solitary characters are framed in the frame’s middle.
  4. Appearance by the director: Director/screenwriter Taika Waititi cameos as a religious minister in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.


(Whilst the opinions and observations cited above are, unless stated otherwise, the author’s own, the following sources were used for information: DenOfGeek.com, FanboyNation.com, IMDb.com)

The Reverse-Screenwriters’ Club (Spoilers Ensue):

Plot: a young boy and a recently-widowed man escape government forces in the New Zealand forest.

Act 1: Ricky decides to meet Bella at the farm; Ricky decides to stay with Bella and Hec.

Act 2: Ricky decides to have dinner with Bella and Hec; Ricky decides to go to bed.

Act 3: Ricky decides to escape the house at night; Ricky decides to return to the house with Bella in the morning.

Act 4: Ricky and Bella decide to go hunting; Ricky decides to pass out rather than help Bella with the pig.

Act 5: Ricky decides to celebrate his birthday with Bella and Hec; Ricky decides to accept his present, the dog Tupac.

Act 6: Ricky decides to follow Tupac back to the cottage; Ricky decides to observe Hec mourning Bella at the house.

Act 7: Hec decides to leave Bella’s funeral service, mid-sermon; Ricky decides to follow him out.

Act 8: Ricky decides to read Paula’s letter out to Hec; Ricky decides to convince Hec to escape jointly into the bush, unsuccessfully.

Act 9: Ricky decides to flee into the bush alone with Bella’s ashes; Hec decides to catch up with Ricky, successfully.

Act 10: Ricky decides to confront Hec over his illiteracy; Hec decides to charge at Ricky, breaking his ankle doing so.

Act 11: Ricky and Hec decide to set up camp in the woods; Ricky decides to go hunting, unsuccessfully.

Act 12: Ricky and Hec decide to enter the cabin; Ricky decides to read the poster for Hec.

Act 13: Ricky and Hec decide to confront the hunters who come in; Ricky and Hec disarm the hunters and escape.

Act 14: Ricky and Hec decides to live in the bush until winter; Ricky and Hec decide to steal from cabins to survive.

Act 15: Ricky and Hec decide to observe the Huia bird; Ricky and Hec decide to raid a cabin for supplies.

Act 16: Ricky decides to go downriver to find help for the paralysed ranger; Ricky decides to go with Kahu for help.

Act 17: Ricky decides to agree to let Kahu’s father take ‘selfies’ with him; Ricky decides to fall asleep at their house.

Act 18: Ricky decides to rush back to the ranger’s cabin; Ricky decides to look for Hec in the surrounding woods.

Act 19: Ricky decides to speak to Paula in the woods; Ricky decides to flee further into the bush.

Act 20: Ricky decides to stay with Hec; Ricky and Hec decide to disarm and flee from the hunters in the bush.

Act 21: Hec decides to confront the wild pig to save his dog, Zag; Ricky decides to kill the pig to save Hec.

Act 22: Ricky and Hec decide to scatter Bella’s ashes into the waterfall; Ricky and Hec decide to keep fleeing from the government’s forces.

Act 23: Ricky and Hec decide to go with Bushman/Psycho Sam; Ricky and Hec decide to spend the night with Bushman/Psycho Sam.

Act 24: Ricky decides to alert Hec and Bushman/Psycho Sam to the approaching government soldiers; Ricky and Hec decide to flee in Bushman/Psycho Sam’s truck.

Act 25: Ricky and Hec decide to outrun the government helicopters and tanks; Ricky and Hec decide to turn around and force them to break ranks.

Act 26: Ricky decides to drive the truck through a junkyard; Hec decides to surrender to the government.

Act 27: Ricky decides to shoot Hec as he surrenders; Ricky and Hec decide to go with the police.

Act 28: Ricky decides to testify in his court case; Ricky decides to move in with Kahu’s family.

Act 29: Hec decides to go to rehabilitation after prison; Ricky decides to go and apologise to him there.

Epilogue: Ricky decides to ask Hec to go Huia bird-spotting with him; Ricky and Hec decide to return to the bush.

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