James Jay Edwards

The Hunt Misses the Mark With Its Political Satire

(The Hunt; Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures)

James Jay Edwards reviews The Hunt, a movie scheduled for release last September, that was, until President Trump criticized it via Twitter. It’s in theaters now.

 

Last fall, the Blumhouse/Universal horror flick The Hunt was unceremoniously pulled from release schedules mere weeks before it was slated to premiere. This is why the promotional posters for the film proudly exclaim that “the most talked about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen.” Until now.

In short, The Hunt is about a group of “liberal elites” that kidnaps a bunch of conservative-leaning folks, sets them free in a field with some random weapons, and hunts them down for sport. However, one of the victims, a woman named Crystal (Betty Gilpin from GLOW), is a capable fighter and struggles to survive as she works her way through her captors, hoping for a showdown with their leader, an enigmatic figure named Athena (Million Dollar Baby’s Hilary Swank).

 

(The Hunt, theatrical release poster; Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures)

 

Both Universal and Blumhouse were guarded about why the initial release of The Hunt was cancelled, and even director Craig Zobel (Compliance, Z for Zachariah) was gracious in his disappointment. But I have a personal theory. After the first trailer hit the internet, the President of the United States of America became a vocal opponent of the film through his favorite mouthpiece Twitter. Offended by the concept of liberals hunting conservatives, Trump sounded the dog whistle, and his followers hopped on the hate train, including those who have an unhealthy obsession with the second amendment. In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings of last year, Universal probably didn’t want a theater shooting on its conscience. So, it was safer and more responsible to nix the opening. Or, at least, that’s my theory.

But enough about the hype and controversy. What about the movie?

 

(The Hunt; Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures)

 

The Hunt is baffling. The screenplay, written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse (the team behind HBO’s The Leftovers and Watchmen), is an attempt at satire, but it’s not always successful. There are some truly hysterical moments, but most of the movie is a muddling journey with a slew of characters, none of which are particularly likeable. Words like “deplorables” and “snowflake” get tossed around, as do the phrases “climate change is real” and “rat-effer-in-chief,” but the truth is that no one, neither liberal nor conservative, is presented positively. Every character is a cartoon. And that’s just confusing. Who are we supposed to be rooting for again? Because we kind of want them all to die.

Luckily, most of them do. The best way to go into The Hunt is completely blind, because the focus of the movie shifts often, and the plot is full of surprises. Even the trailer reveals a couple of the big gasps. Granted, after a while, even the twists get predictable, but The Hunt is never the movie that it’s supposed to be. Well, it is. It’s just a gory variation on The Most Dangerous Game, but even the most jaded of viewers will be shocked at least once. But to be shocked, you need to not have anything spoiled. And honestly, the few jaw-drops are all the movie has going for it.

 

(The Hunt; Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures)

 

Well, there’s also the outright horror of it. Despite the brainless dialogue and broad-stroke character development (or perhaps because of it), The Hunt is a pretty fun little horror movie at times. The carnage is great, and the body count is high. There are a handful of mid-range stars in the movie, people like Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams), and Justin Hartley (This Is Us), and some of them are no more than cannon fodder. The violent deaths are both plentiful and graphic, and what the movie lacks in plot is made up for in splattery visual effects. And it all leads up to an epic final battle that almost saves the movie. Almost.

Because of the bloated controversy stoked by offended right-wingers last fall, The Hunt is one of the most hyped up movies of the year. And frankly, the movie doesn’t quite live up to that hype. Had there been no uproar, The Hunt would have come and gone with little fanfare. Now, people are going to see it. And then they’ll wonder what the big deal was.

 

 

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