I tried. I really tried to watch The Hunt with an open mind at a recent media-only screening, because I have been a loud-and-proud supporter of everything related to Blumhouse Productions from the studio’s beginnings, as Paranormal Activity and The Purge, two horror films created on microbudgets that reaped millions upon millions of dollars at the box office and plenty of accolades by critics and audiences alike, were a couple of favorites of mine throughout the years. There have been many more which I have thoroughly enjoyed — especially the selective sequel Halloween and most recently The Invisible Man remake — and I will continue to encourage others to watch the studio’s movies to decide for themselves whether they liked them or not, but I just could not stomach this one.
In case you might have forgotten or you weren’t aware, The Hunt was originally scheduled to be released on September 27, 2019, but after multiple mass shootings taking place in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas in August of 2019, the film’s media campaign promoting the shooting and killing of characters’ opposing political rivals seemed ill timed and possibly built publicity upon a terrible real-life event — which it was. As the studio received a ton of condemnation and bad press, the movie was pulled from theaters and some — including me — wondered aloud if the film would, or even should, ever receive a wide release at a movie theater. Fast forward five and a half months later and the film has finally arrived and presently, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic both list it with “mixed or average reviews,” to put it nicely. I have a different take. I’ve actually got a very strong opinion about this one.
The “film” opens — if you can call it one — with 12 victims awakening from a drugged daze in a strange place, as they quickly realize they’re being hunted down by unknown assailants for sport. They eventually realize the “godless elite” who are in charge have been strategically killing off these “deplorables,” because of their politics. One by one they fall, but Crystal stands tall, fighting back against the terrorists, proving to be more than meets the eye to her captors.
The highlight (and the only thing positive) from the movie is Betty Gilpin’s performance. Her introspective, beaten-down character does receive a short backstory, but she mostly builds upon her GLOW role as Debbie Eagan, proving she can capabily handle a big-screen action role, as she’s always one step ahead of her opponents and physically does whatever it takes to survive. Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all.
Simply stated, The Hunt is nothing but a liberal revenge fantasy. This is something those of a political left leaning will thoroughly enjoy, as innocent conservative bystanders and brutally injured and killed for fun. In fact, the primary antagonist has set this all up in order to get revenge on everybody who said something remotely negative about her online. They must be killed. It’s only fair, right?
Don’t believe the hype that this is an over-the-top satire. That’s not true. And if you read the articles that featured Damon Lindelof vigorously defending this film, you can read between the lines to actually figure out the narrative. The whole premise goes into the tried-and-true belief that if you believe something, or if you say something enough times, it actually becomes true, which just happens to be the narrative of Hillary Swank’s Big Bad.
There’s little motivation other than acting out violent fantasies onto other people who just happen to have a different set of beliefs. They can be classified as conservatives, Republicans and possibly libertarians — anyone who doesn’t see eye to eye as the “upper class” Democrats. Supposedly, these victims are all uneducated, poor rednecks, looked down upon by these captors and they deserve to die. It’s actually incredibly insulting to anyone with half a brain.
I felt insulted that these filmmakers actually thought they could market a one-sided film that made no attempt to balance the politics whatsoever, thinking everyone would enjoy this tale without anybody noticing their agenda. The script was laughably pathetic and the characters weren’t even stereotypes — they were secondhand paper-thin thoughts briefly appearing, before floating away. Supposedly, at test screenings, audiences had “negative reactions” and “discomfort” regarding the on-screen politics. To this, Universal, the film’s distributor, was either surprised or couldn’t care less and decided it wasn’t a big deal. I guess the surprise will soon be on the studio.
After attending a weekday afternoon screening, I bolted out the door to hear what other invited media thought of the film. Some gave timid reactions, too ashamed to give actual concrete thoughts and others mentioned if you were in on the “joke,” you could actually enjoy the story. In reality, there was no joke. Too many people actually believe these characters’ thoughts and spout their hatred online and in person every day. Sadly, some of them actually follow through with this narrative and create horrific tragedies.
Releasing on Friday the 13th, The Hunt should do enough business to recoup its $14 million budget, but the only attraction for audiences will be to see what all the controversy is about. It should immediately fall off in its second weekend, as it doesn’t have much rewatch value. I honestly thought debuting on a streaming service would be the ultimate destination for something of this “quality.” In reality, it should have been.
Politics is nothing new to Blumhouse Productions. I have enjoyed many of the studio’s films throughout the years and I’ll absolutely be one of the first people to line up to see the next release, but this one is pure trash. Straight garbage.