Starring Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Madigan Emma Roberts Ethan Suplee. Directed by Craig Zobel.
Huge powerhouse companies typically go a certain way: Blumhouse could potentially rival Disney until Disney eventually swallows it and then the planet, in the inevitable merger where everything falls under the rule of the Mouse. Until then, the ‘make it cheap but make it profitable’ way of Blumhouse continues strong.
The Hunt is the film that President Trump decried as baiting, and looking to incite violence, and as a result was pulled from its September release and is now coming out, hoping to capitalise on the hysteria and controversy that originally surrounded it.
It was officially pulled away out of sensitivity towards a mass shooting in the US around the same time — though if we’re going to post-pone films due to mass shootings in America, the film industry might as well just go straight to streaming because we’ll never see a cinema release again.
The Hunt, loosely (very very very loosely) adapted from the novella The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, follows a group of people who wake up in a field, mouths gagged, and soon find that they’ve been given a box of weapons and a pig, before people begin hunting and killing them.
The controversial nature of the film, and its positioning more as a violent action thriller than a straight-up horror movie, should allow for some sly undercutting of current politics, in a similar way that The Invisible Woman is very much a MeToo era horror film. Sadly, in the end, writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, along with director Craig Zobel, have missed their opportunity to make the best of this situation.
There is some sly moments in the film, not least due to the ensemble nature of those being hunted, meaning a few deaths are quite shocking, but Zobel’s direction is largely inconsistent. At times he shows a flair for decent action work — especially in the final confrontation — but a lot of this is very generic.
The script is awful, dialogue is clunky and on the nose, while the pacing is all over the place. It makes sense — unfortunately, Lindelof is not a writer known for his ability to craft tightly woven narratives, and here his tin-ear for dialogue comes through in droves.
What the film wants to be is sort of the opposite of The Purge series was with rich elite Right-wingers picking off minorities and the poor in violent action, and while this does the for ultra-liberal left what those did for the right, it also lacks nuance, and a basic understanding of what this modern era is.
Words like triggering, snowflake and cultural appropriation are thrown around but never correctly, and never to any effect, and while there are ideas in the film, such as the idea that the left can be just as cruel and blood-thirsty as the right, it fails to properly address this issue.
There of course is a critique to be made about the far-left; their ultra-PC ways that make it impossible to have a conversation about issues without getting caught in red tape, the pile-on culture, the decision that all people on the right are stupid and uneducated, and even the cancel-culture getting it wrong are all interesting things to make a film about. However, these ideas are all but dropped as soon as a cool death or weird comic moment can be created instead.
It’s not impossible to make a film that takes a look at how toxic the left can be either; Jordan Peele did it to Oscar-winning success in Get Out, how the left can be just as racist – though in a different way – to the right. Here, the targets are easy – one is a big game hunter, one a racist podcaster etc, and we hear a heavy handed joke about how “you can’t pick a black man that’s problematic” is so thuddingly unfunny it almost derails the scene.
The obligatory Big name in the movie, which shall remain a mystery for those who wish to see it, isn’t as inspired as the film thinks – considering that the film spends forever not revealing them before making a big deal of it — it’s not someone you would even expect. It’s not as if they managed to get an outspoken liberal fighter like Alyssa Milano or Patricia Arquette – which would work better for the message of the film.
Betty Gilpin, best known for her role in Netflix comedy GLOW, does the best she can with a role that isn’t underwritten, it’s not written at all. What they aim for is a silent but deadly badass, but in the end you just wind up wondering why her entire role is just chewing her lips and widening her eyes, and her unstoppable end fight borders on the ridiculous.
The film is, sadly, a failure. The ideas it contains could be so much better if both sides of the battle had more nuance. After all, not all the ultra-liberal are caught up in saying “problematic” to everything, and not every -alt-right is a southern drawled white man in a MAGA hat fighting for his right to use the N word again.
As a thriller, the lack of explanation for a lot of it might prove to be frustrating for many, and the films confused ending offers up no more hope than did the beginning, but for anyone looking for a sort-of funny, sometimes gory, at times ridiculous 90 minutes to distract themselves – The Hunt is finally on.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.