“The most talked-about movie of the year that no-one’s actually seen…Decide For Yourself!” proudly stated the poster for 2020 movie, The Hunt.
Such a claim was fuelled by a release date pushed back after mass shootings in the U.S. during 2019 and the film's trailer that drew Twitter ire for perceived left-wing bias.
The movie’s theatrical run was cut short due to the pandemic but does it deserve the controversy? Not according to Netflix fans who watched it in their millions once it was released on the streaming platform!
With producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions (His House, Get Out, The Invisible Man) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Watchmen, Cowboys & Aliens, The Leftovers), there is clearly a talented pedigree at work here.
It is apparent within the first 15 minutes that The Hunt is not going to play out the way it deliberately suggested it would.
A dazed and confused man causes a ruckus on a private plane before being violently subdued. Other similar strangers wake in a remote location; surrounded by forest, gagged and disorientated.
Slowly they make their way to an ominous-looking wooden crate in an open space, and then…
Well, the plot description stops there. The Hunt is a movie that utterly delights in wrong-footing you on multiple occasions and to go much further into the plot would be to spoil that.
A title like ‘The Hunt’ gives you enough initial information to go on though. There are many blood-soaked and gory deaths splashed about in such a blackly comic manner that my hands shot to my mouth in shocked amusement and the surprise factor is a large dose of the fun.
Director, Craig Zobel is well versed in how the visual language of movies leads you to expect events to go a certain way. However, it quickly becomes difficult to work out where (if anywhere) your sympathies are supposed to lie.
The pre-release controversy likely stems from the fact that the humour and tone in The Hunt is very difficult to extract into a trailer.
On the face of it, the relationship between those hunting and their prey appears simplistic. As we get to know people we learn that many of those fleeing for their lives have attitudes that, shall we say, lean to the right of the U.S. political spectrum whilst those hunting them lean to the left.
Yet come the halfway point of the movie it should be apparent to anyone keeping score that neither side is being portrayed with any real sympathy.
The Hunt hardly swings into full political satire mode, but it is smart enough to know that for the concept to work it has to needle the biases of one side whilst also puncturing the hypocrisies of the other. It's a culture war of sorts.
Characters come and go throughout but the presence of Betty Gilpin (GLOW) as Crystal Creasey rivals that of Uma Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill. Her steely glare absorbs all the information around her yet she virtually mumbles much of her dialogue, fully aware of the suspiciousness of her predicament.
Several of ‘the hunted’ manage to escape their immediate surroundings yet the very nature of being drugged and stranded somewhere shows a manipulating force at play.
Gilpin’s skill is to bide her time, eye up the situation, and use immediate and brutal force as and when required. The aftermath may be showy (Blood! So much blood!), but she sells it by delivering a carefully muted and always poised performance.
Is The Hunt Worth Watching?
I blindly went into The Hunt aware only that there was an element of controversy but confident in the knock-out track record of Blumhouse Productions, and I was not disappointed.
As a matter of fact, I was delighted! The Hunt is a darkly humorous action thriller. It is gloriously violent, filled with smart misdirection, and wickedly uses extremes to highlight the vast gulf of a divide between the two main U.S. political viewpoints.
If you ever find yourself in the same situation as these hunted people then run fast, watch carefully, and check your change after any purchase as mistakes cannot be rectified later…
Words by Mike Record
Is The Hunt A Real Story?
No, The Hunt is not a real story. It is an American horror thriller film directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof.
It should be noted though the the movie is based on “The Most Dangerous Game“, also published as “The Hounds of Zaroff“, a short story written by Richard Connell in 1924.
Filming took place in New Orleans and it was originally scheduled for release in September 2019. However, Universal Pictures decided to delay it and instead The Hunt was released in theaters in the US in March 2020.
It didn't do great at the box office but to be fair, cinemas did get closed down soon after it was released!
Who Is The Cast In The Hunt?
When a movie sets out to bring a number of genres together, the balance has to be perfect.
After all, you can't just create a movie about twelve strangers, a dark internet conspiracy theory, a very dangerous game where humans hunt humans, still be a relatively low budget social commentary and hope that all just comes together.
Nope. You have to have a great cast to bring it to life and that's exactly what The Hunt does. And here is that cast…
Ike Barinholtz as Moses “Staten Island”
Betty Gilpin as Crystal May Creasey
Amy Madigan as Miranda “Ma”
Emma Roberts (Maybe I Do) as “Yoga Pants”
Ethan Suplee as Gary
Hilary Swank as Athena Stone
Wayne Duvall as Don,
Chris Berry as Boxer “Target”
Sturgill Simpson as “Vanilla Nice”
Kate Nowlin as Molly “Big Red”
Justin Hartley as “Big Game Shane”