“The Hunt” (2020)
Running time: 90 minutes
Written and by: Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof
Directd by: Craig Zobel
Featuring: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee and Hilary Swank
Staten Island: “Alright, listen to me. They grabbed us from all over, and they brought us here to kill us, and they’re still trying to kill us. And they’re coming down the f**king road, and they’re going to be here any f**king second!”
Operator: “Okay. What is your current location, sir?”
Staten Island: “I am at a gas station! Could you please just trace the call?”
Operator: “Of course. That’s a great idea. We’ll trace you, sir. Sit tight.”
Staten Island: “Okay.”
Operator: “Help’s on the way.”
It may seem redundant to say but the last few years has seen much handwringing in the media over how people should be represented as well as how political leanings should be treated in popular culture and there is no better example of this than in this weeks home release, “The Hunt”. This action/thriller was originally meant to be released last year but when the first trailer arrived there was huge outcry from both the left and the right as it triggered, possibly incorrectly, a tsunami of commentary from people who had not even seen the end product. To say there was a massive overreaction is itself an understatement. There is no doubt that the movie sets up what can only be described as right wing archetypes who are generalised against left wingers who themselves are overly exaggerated this is not an entirely original concept. In fact the broad outline is not unlike the original “Battle Royale” (1998) as well as the underrated “American Horror Story: Cult” (2017) mixed together, which I personally see nothing wrong with as it does have a lesson to be learned at the heart of it, even with all the blood, mayhem and frankly unbelievability.
There is no doubt that ever since Donald Trump was elected POTUS there has been a backlash from the left which has been apparent in the media as has the response from the right. “The Hunt” represents something of both of these point of view to a much hyped degree. The movie does illustrate the stress, mental health challenges and the physical toll that Trump’s presidency has brought out in some and where the left lay the blame of the outcome of the last Presidential election. Unfortunately it is not a clear cut story as some would have you believe and there is a complete lack of self awareness as well as understanding of the political process contained within “The Hunt”, which is ultimately its greatest fault, meaning it comes off as a two dimensional moan, attacking those who are following their own, albeit misguided, decisions in picking a leader.
I have made the point before but the past ten years has been a bonanza for genre movies, especially horror, not only does there seem to be more being produced than ever before, especially with the advent of cheap film making equipment, more quality filmmakers entering the genre as well as more production companies realising there is money to be made, especially with the increase in online streaming services. This is where Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company has entered the market finding a cost/revenue model that works for them, partnering with a major distribution partner in Universal and not limiting itself to theatrical projects, but also partnering with Netflix. What is exciting about this new horror movie is that it does not come from any established horror producers, writers or directors, they are all relatively new to the industry but have created a movie that is a great example of the genre especially heading into a new decade.
“The Hunt” essentially begins with eleven captives who wake up gagged, in a forest, for was transpires as the hunt. In a clearing, they find a cache of weapons and keys to their gags, but upon retrieving them, five are killed by an unseen enemy, three escape over a barbed-wire fence to a service station. I do not not want to give away any more of the plot, but it essentially becomes a road movie of sorts which is an easy way to build a narrative that flows logically which it does even though it attempts to be preachy but ultimately falls flat, mainly because it is slight, aimless and when questions get a little difficult violence seems to be the go to technique to link scenes.
Written by genre specialists Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof who somehow with all their failures seem to find themselves linked to a variety of projects, here do their best to generalize and vilify as much of the right as possible while at the same time making the left out to be no better. They seem to think that the best answer to problems is violence and that everyone is willing to sell out at a moments notice for money or some kind of forgiveness. As is usual with both Cuse and Lindelof who never seem mind taking others ideas and twisting them into their own work always seem capable of having a kernel of an idea but are too lazy to actually create something meaningful, something that happens here. Directed by Craig Zobel who is a genre specialist as well, is better suited to this material, he made the interesting “Compliance” (2012) which took a seemingly absurd idea making it a reality for a mass audience does something similar here.
Even though the movie is loaded with some terrific character and comedic actors as well a double Oscar winner the real star is the up and coming actress Betty Gilpin who from her introduction steals the show as someone who has not only hidden talents but is possibly been mistaken for someone else entirely. Gilpin, who is best known for portraying Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan in the Netflix comedy series “Glow” (2017–2019) portrays someone who seemingly knows what is going on from the outset, has military training and is unfazed by all the people she encounters. Sure the finale might be a little underwhelming as well as unsurprising but stay with Gilpin until the end and there is some reward to be had. Anyone that can, for most of the movie go one on one with Hilary Swank both in dialogue and physically is someone to watch indeed.
Even though “The Hunt” is a flawed movie that takes its subject matter on one hand not serious enough but paints its characters with too broad a brush it still does have something uneasy at its core which is worth exploring. It may have seemed that a Trump Presidency was the very worse culture would have to deal with but since the production of this movie we have see a global pandemic, an election that is shaping up to be one of most tumultuous ever as well as natural disasters that have shaken the globe which really makes this movie pedestrian by comparison, we may long for the days where this movie was the only thing the left or right had to worry about.
All in all this is not a bad horror at all and contains enough to make it watchable, at the same it quite forgettable. Oddly enough I have seen it a few times over the past year and the fact that I can come back to it either says something about me or the movie itself. It is escapism with a moral of sorts, see if you can figure it out.
- Crafting The Hunt (HD, 5 Mins.) – Standard EPK fluff with interviews with limited cast and crew, discussing the story and tone of the film.
- Death Scene Breakdowns (HD, 3 Mins.) – A couple of quick EPK style pieces that look all too quickly at some of the bigger deaths on screen.
- Athena vs Crystal: Hunter Or Hunted? (HD, 3 Mins.) – The climactic fight scene between Gilpin and Swank is touched on quickly with a few behind the scenes shots of the stunt people working with the actors.