In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic movie studios have looked to make up the difference by introducing numerous releases on demand. One such film is “The Hunt”, a movie with a very interesting and controversial history and possibly one of the most talked about films in recent years due to it’s content. “The Hunt” follows a group of conservative Americans who are hunted by rich elite liberals in a game of cat-and-mouse and presents itself as both a satire and horror thriller targeting America’s political divide. Originally scheduled for release in September of 2019 the violence and content caused it to be pulled from Blumhouse Productions’ and Universal’s release slates after the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso as well as public criticism from President Donald Trump and hit supporters. Billed as “the most talked about movie of the year” despite people having yet to see it, the film finally hit the big screen a few weeks ago before immediately falling victim to the theater shutdowns due to the COVID-19 virus. Well now that it’s on demand I finally had a chance to see what all the fuss was about. Is “The Hunt” really deserving of all the negativity? Let’s find out. This is my review of “The Hunt”.
So, to get right to the point, no “The Hunt” isn’t really deserving of all the controversy but I can see why the fragile egos of the American far right and far left were effected by the very idea of this movie. As previously explained, “The Hunt” sees a group of strangers all identifying as conservatives being hunted by rich liberals. On paper that sounds pretty tasteless but when you see what they do with the idea you realize that “The Hunt” really is meant to be a satire of our divided political culture. In fact it’s kind of ironic that the conservative base would find this movie so insulting without watching it because it’s a classic “judging a book by its cover” scenario seeing as the conservatives are shown as the victims and the liberals are over the top caricatures of social justice warriors. In other words, “The Hunt” seeks to humanize the conservatives and demonize the liberals as taking things too far, the exact opposite of what conservative naysayers assumed the movie would do. This reportedly was always the plan as producer Jason Blum said not a single frame was changed after the movie was delayed. By the time the film ends it serves as more of an attempt at an insightful switcheroo of how we perceive the two parties making its commentary more about perception than fully vilifying either party.
The problem is “The Hunt” doesn’t really stay the course long enough to be an effective allegory for America’s political divide. Sure, it takes some fun jabs as liberal SJWs and even mildly pokes fun at the hypocrisy of the right-wing conservatives, but most of the movie actually revolves around a character named Crystal played by Betty Gilpin. She acts as what I assume to be the personification of the centrist or unaffiliated citizen. She’s neither hard core right like her fellow victims or hard core left like the hunters. She’s just there trying to survive and get through life regardless of the extremes. She could have easily been designed and characterized to represent the more evenly minded centrist who understands the need for balance among the values of both parties, but instead she is simply a survivalist caught between a war of ideals. Gilpin does an awesome job portraying Crystal making her by far the most fun aspect of this film, but I feel like the point of her character is missed in favor of giving us a female badass more than a symbolic representation of third-party America. In the end though she proves her value as she is shown to have a moral compass and superior survival instincts that everyone else lacks. It’s a neat idea really, but one that could have benefited from some better writing and character development to help better define what she is supposed to represent in this politically charged thriller.
One thing I noticed almost immediately about “The Hunt” is that it doesn’t really fit completely into any genre which, for me, made it a little more fun. On one hand it’s an unpredictable survivor horror. On the other hand, it’s a mildly underwhelming satire of America’s political divide. It’s a fun gore fest filled with entertaining deaths right from the start and littered with surprises as characters are positioned to be main protagonists only to be cut down after mere minutes of screen time. In only an hour and a half “The Hunt” proved to be a very entertaining and engaging experience even if it’s not exactly the kind of experience I think the filmmakers were going for. I almost wish it picked a lane instead of trying to be so much at one time. It would have made for a more insightful film or a more cringe-inducing horror experience. Instead we get a little bit of everything but not quite enough of one thing to make “The Hunt” stand out. It tries to be everything at once and, as a result, never really decides what it wants to be at all. It’s blood-soaked fun with effective humor and insightful commentary but all of these elements fight for the same screen time preventing any of them from really shining through as effectively as they could have.
But with all that said while “The Hunt” isn’t what it was probably meant to be, it’s definitely something. It’s a little bit of everything in fact, but that mix of tones and genres make for a more shamelessly entertaining experience than one that lives up to its own purpose. In small ways it works as a satire, a horror and a survival thriller but I feel it could have shined even brighter as any one of these individually rather than trying to be all of these at once. Still, I actually had fun with it. In fact, I watched it several times in one night and each time I found myself just as engaged as I was the previous viewings. It is a lot of fun in its own way and, to its credit, does contain enough insightful commentary on America’s political divide to make it worth the experience just to enjoy laughing at our own expense. For those who denied this film based on its premise alone, I implore you to give it a chance. It’s not what you expect and maybe not everything it needs to be, but overall “The Hunt” stands as a interesting mix of ideas and genres that, if nothing else, is an entertaining waste of time.