Why do we murder? It’s a question posed by Dash Melrose’s character Donnie in the film WHITETAIL.
WHITETAIL is about a hunting trip gone wrong when Tom (Tom Zembrod) and his son Donnie (Dash Melrose), along with Donnie’s Uncle Frank (Paul T. Taylor), venture out into the woods and come across a crime scene.
WHITETAIL, written and directed by Derek Presley, unfolds as if Fargo were set in rural Texas. Donnie’s quiet throughout the film, presumably owing to the recent death of his mother (the impetus for the journey), heightens the impact of his statement. The film does not seek to solve its central question about killing, but it does explore the conflicting themes of homicidal bank robbers and the poisonous masculinity of hunting.
Hunting has never been one of my favorite pastimes. Years ago, I dated someone whose family had a yearly men-only hunting trip and displayed the heads of wildlife they’d slaughtered on their walls. I realize that for others, it’s less about the hunt and more about the opportunity to reconnect with nature or connect with it in a simple manner. Still, it’s always felt like a needless act of toxic masculinity to me. Derek Presley, I’m sure, feels the same way.
Tom, the film’s protagonist, does not feel like a hero, but rather like a detached father figure grabbing at straws to connect with his kid in the only manner he knows how — slaughtering wildlife in the woods. When they stumble upon the corpse of Davey Bottoms (Jason Douglas), one of three crooks in the film who intended to leave after a bank heist, Tom proudly shows off his manhood.
Rather than abandoning the journey to contact the cops straight away, Tom, accompanied by Donnie and Frank, remains with Davey’s barely alive body to take him in personally. That’s when things go awry since Davey’s brother Ricky (Jason Coviello) and their friend Jesse (Billy Blair) are now on the lookout for this family to retrieve a bag of money.
This film has a lot going for it, including a fantastic performance by Jason Coviello as the insane Ricky Bottoms and a storyline that continues to construct emotional moments out of individuals who refuse to reveal their feelings owing to their hyper-masculinity. This thriller is all about the trip and provides an intriguing look at masculinity and the problems it may bring.
WHITETAIL is presently playing in a limited number of theaters. This fall, the film will be available on digital, VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray.