Hinterland Tales

MTV’s Hinterland Tales has carved out its own online video niche: the vintage nature video parody.

Presumably shot on 8mm, all the installments have that 70’s, classroom PSA kinda feel. A little bit of Dick Proenneke’s Alone in the Wilderness mixed with dirty old Red Asphalt, the driver’s ed. sensational scare-tactic classic. But while Hinterland take a very lighthearted approach, the punch lines are flat as a pancake.

Comprised of four two-minute-or-less videos – The Ant, The Manatee, The Raven and The Bear – derived from the viral classic Spiders on Drugs, each Hinterland Tale begins with the clichéd tranquil tones of a flute, followed by a reassuring, pedagogical narrator.

The narration is so convincingly authentic that you sense that it’s the real article until, usually about half way in, the parody kicks in. The ants are so efficient that they have to fire one of the workers; the manatee’s environment is being overtaken by tourists, especially a drunk boater; the Ravens (actually, they’re crows) assault the narrator; and the bear gets a bad pop song stuck in its head.

Ultimately, I don’t find much funny about animals struggling or being exploited. Maybe if you’re an adolescent, or just a sadist (isn’t the former usually both?) you’ll find some hearty cackles. But a bear that has “I’m Walking on Sunshine” stuck in his head? It does sound like it could have potential here on paper, but in reality we don’t care about this bear, or that the drunk guy’s boat propeller kills a manatee. The joke is transitioning from straight nature talk to anarchy, with the anarchy here being fairly cheesy film effects.

There’s also a scene in The Raven, when one of the crows commandeers a vehicle, that’s very reminiscent of rabbits-commandeering-a-vehicle in the detective comedy Get a Clue.

But that’s neither here nor there. After watching, I’m left thinking, “Whoa, this is some very cool ant footage,” but once the disgruntled ant goes back to work and goes postal on his former co-workers (again- sounds funny on paper), I’m left completely indifferent. The brevity is appreciated, but putting all the pressure on the one line of a one-liner is a risky affair. MTV still has some work to do to make inroads in the online video realm and with Hinterland Tales, they try to dump the responsibility off on the Canadian Wilderness Bureau.

But then again, maybe all those nude PETA ads have cased an error in my judgement. Almost 20 million YouTube hits can’t be wrong. Check out Hinterland Tales for yourself at MTV.com .

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