Hunting for the Hag Poster

Hunting for the Hag (2023) Review

Hunting for the Hag begins with Tara (Jasmine Williams, Stage V, Round of Your Life) siting across the table from a rather skeptical lawyer (Daniel Roebuck, The Munsters, Angel Baby) who keeps telling her the footage on her laptop won’t help her out of the mess she’s in. She reminds him that he was the one who contacted her, and if he doesn’t actually watch the footage, or she’s leaving.

The footage also begins with Tara, noticeably lacking the facial scar she had in the opening scenes, introducing herself as we find out that she, along with her friends Beth (Alexa Maris, Reborn, Game Night) and Candy (Sierra Renfro, The Last Exorcist, Spirit Riser) are setting out to get footage of the entity known as The Hawthorne Hag (Nathan Brandon Gaik, Dead Bodies Everywhere).

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You might be thinking that it sounds like, director Paul A. Brooks (127 Condiments, Below Decks) and co-writer Sierra Renfro have given us the Illinois version of The Blair Witch Project. And, apart from Tara still being among the living, Hunting for the Hag certainly begins like a typical found footage film. There’s footage of the trio in the car on the way there, goofing around, talking about The Hag. Shots of them checking out the Airbnb they’re staying at, especially the pool, etc.

“The Hag is a legendary entity that’s part of the Illinois folklore. Supposedly, her name was Ollie Yarger, and she was someone who lived in Hawthorne, IL in the early 1800s. She was falsely accused of murdering a child and was hanged for the crime. The legend says that she haunts the woods, seeking vengeance on those who killed her. In reality, I was inspired by an 80’s movie called ‘Mother’s Day’, which tells the tale of three women on a camping excursion and a deformed woman named Queenie, who also roams the woods.”

Paul A. Brooks

The initial footage of the trio wandering around in the dark woods also seems pretty familiar. But then, after a prank gone wrong, things start to take an unexpected, and deadly, turn. It seems The Hag isn’t the only evil in the woods, and humans have a tendency to be the worst monsters of all.

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And when he says inspired, that’s exactly what Brooks means. This isn’t a covert remake, and there are plenty of differences, but one can easily see the influence of Mother’s Day on Hunting for the Hag’s second half. One of the biggest differences is that while Mother’s Day deserved its “No one under 18 will be admitted” tag, Hunting for the Hag isn’t nearly that extreme. There is some gore, but nothing that approaches its over the top bloodshed and sexual violence.

While it isn’t particularly explicit, it does provide some grim moments as well as a few jump scares, especially after The Hag does show up and proves to be an equal opportunity killer. This leaves our heroines caught between two equally unappealing fates, forcing them to fight against seemingly unbeatable odds.

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As a blend of found footage, folk horror and survival horror, Hunting for the Hag is an enjoyable mashup of genres that benefits from some good performances and night cinematography by K.R. Brooks (Everything is Dead at the Flower Shop, The Veil). The couple of effects we get from Aleah Kraft (The Rake, Dismal) are decent, although much of the one most viewers would like to have seen is replaced with the inevitable video glitching, probably due to the cost of fully shooting it.

While I can’t help wishing it had indulged in a little more of its inspiration’s nastiness, a reprise of the Draino scene for example, Hunting for the Hag still kept me entertained. It’s a good choice for a weekend rental.

Lion Heart Distribution will release Hunting for the Hag to VOD and Digital Platforms on April 2nd. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.

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