Finally. Well, sort of. Few movies in recent memory have had quite the path to audiences as The Hunt. Blumhouse Productions originally planned to release their satirical take on The Most Dangerous Game last August. However, after the El Paso And Dayton shootings (and a Donald Trump Tweet), Blumhouse pulled the plug. Unexpectedly, Blumhouse resurrected The Hunt for a March theatrical release. But the Cornavirus pandemic has forced all studios to re-think release schedules. In a surprise move, distributor Universal Pictures opted to make The Hunt available immediately on VOD platforms. Now everyone can finally see the movie ‘they’ didn’t want you to see. And it was definitely worth the wait.
Twelve strangers wake up, bound and gagged, in a field. After finding keys to free themselves, the only other thing in the clearing is a giant crate loaded with weapons. Of course, they’ve all heard the rumours – ‘Manorgate’. Stories about liberal elites hunting ‘average working class folk’ like them for sport. But they’re just Internet rumours, right?
The Hunt Wickedly Funny, Subversive Satire
Straight-out-of-the-gate, The Hunt sets a wildly funny, irreverent tone. And screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof make it clear they’re not following any genre template. Through The Hunt loosely borrows Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game premise, it plays fast and loose with audience expectations. In fact, director Craig Zobel distinguishes his movie in a few critical ways. First, Zobel ensures that the story never quite follows the course you assume, taking some occasionally surprising turns. Expect a lot of misdirection as well, particularly early in the movie. There’s also some surprising casualties that establish an ‘anything goes’ feeling for the rest of the movie.
Perhaps The Hunt divided critics because it’s not quite the one-sided take-down one might have anticipated.
Perhaps The Hunt divided critics because it’s not quite the one-sided take-down one might have anticipated. Yes, Cuse and Lindelof’s screenplay take the expected swipes at the MAGA crowd with a healthy dose of snark. Ethan Suplee’s ‘Deep State’ podcast conspiracy theorist’s confusion of legitimate refugees for ‘crisis actors’ is some spot-on commentary. And the irony of Ike Barinholtz’s character defending his Second Amendment rights only to have it pointed it out that he’s being hunted by people exercising the same right is Grade-A satire. Yet The Hunt doesn’t spare the ‘Left’, throwing out some pretty sharp zingers in their direction as well. Our ‘Liberal Elite’ hunters are hyper-politically correct, pretentious snobs arguing over inclusivity and cultural appropriate while debating targets for their hunt. It’s peak ‘wokeness’ when one character remakes, ‘We’re the worst’, in reference to being White.
The Hunt Balances Over-the-Top Gore with Sharp Commentary
‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ seems to be The Hunt’s mantra. While it’s not a horror movie, The Hunt isn’t shy when it comes to blood-spurting and head-exploding violence. Expect this violence to be abruptly shocking and darkly funny – depending on your sense of humour. When one MAGA prey – her lower body blown off – refers to someone as a ‘snowflake’, you know The Hunt isn’t pulling punches. It’s all grotesque, but Zobel pulls it off in such a way to make it more ridiculous than cruel. There’s just the right balance between winking humour and gut-spilling carnage. In addition, The Hunt’s climatic battle may be one of the best extended fight scenes since John Carpenter’s They Live.
In the divided, reactionary times in which we live, The Hunt treads on some dangerous ground in taking aim at cancel culture.
But where The Hunt elevates itself from other other horror-comedies is in the handling of its commentary. In the divided, reactionary times in which we live, The Hunt treads on some dangerous ground in taking aim at cancel culture. Nevertheless, similar to the best satires, Cuse and Lindelof’s screenplay nails everything wrong with our ‘trial by media’ obsessed culture and ‘us versus them’ politics. And while the jokes and snarky references mostly hit their marks, it’s the wider commentary that resonates. The Hunt is inherently about at the dangers of the viral immediacy of our social media take-downs in the absence of fact-checking. One of the movie’s final references to George Orwell’s ‘Snowball’ in Animal Farm
Betty Gilpin Makes the Case for Stardom
A lot of familiar faces turn up in The Hunt. Just don’t expect many of them to stick around for very long. And it doesn’t really matter. Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank own this movie. Though she doesn’t have much screentime, Swank is every bit as good as we’ve come to expect from her. She’s a powerhouse performer who can turn the switch from glib to icy to enraged at a moment’s notice. It helps that Swank looks like she’s having an absolute blast with the role. But Betty Gilpin (GLOW) makes a strong case to Hollywood casting agents that she’s the next big star. She’s an absolute powerhouse in the movie, putting herself alongside actresses like Toni Collette, Samara Weaving, and Lupita Nyong’o.
The Hunt Was Worth The Wait For Audiences
It was a long and winding road for The Hunt to find its way to audiences, but it was worth the wait. Whether it’s the hilariously over-the-top, shocking violence, the snarky humour, or the on-target satire of ‘cancel culture’, The Hunt delivers a clever mix of horror, comedy, and action. Tight pacing and strong performances from Gilpin and Swank are icing on the cake. As we hunker down for what could be a long stretch of self-isolating, The Hunt is a future cult-classic worth streaming.