As you might already know, The Hunt was due in theaters last year. But after some controversy, which in retrospect, seems groundless, Universal pulled the film from its fall schedule. Having now seen the film, I can tell y’all that everyone was wrong and everyone was right. And to understand what I mean by that, here’s our review of The Hunt.
But First Let’s Review The Hunt Controversy
image via Universal Pictures
In the wake of multiple mass shootings, Universal reportedly began reconsidering the September release date for The Hunt. An exclusive at The Hollywood Reporter last August purported to share other studio concerns, including that the film’s topical nature was too dicey. That article now reads like it’s ripe for cherry-picking by conservative outlets, which is exactly what happened. Fox News, the grande dame of conservative outlets, grabbed their pearls with both hands, issuing a breathless report the day after THR posted their article. An alleged media expert you’ve never heard of called the film, which, again–no one had really seen–proof that Hollywood was “demented and evil.”
But why were they all so upset? Well, it seemed to be just out-of-context quotes and other details from the movie. These include the now infamous lines, “At least the hunt’s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.” Just to make their point clear, THR also claimed that the original title was Red State vs. Blue State. Everyone involved with the film, including Universal, deny that was ever so, by the way. The studio, in fact, issued a statement that said, “…that was never the working title for the film at any point throughout the development process, nor appeared on any status reports under that name.” In that same link, you can see that the studio also denies there were negative test screenings, another claim of that THR article.
But facts don’t matter, so all heck broke loose. And four days after that THR article, Universal announced that they had canceled the September release. Then, this February, they announced it was back, baby! ‘Cause, again, literally nothin’ matters.
So What IS The Hunt About, Anyway?
image via Universal Pictures
Man, I was waiting for you to ask. Even if you’ve seen the trailers, you have only a surface-level understanding of the forces at work. Yes, it’s about a group of folks who hunt other folks. Yes, their political beliefs have something to do with who is a hunter and who is prey. But it doesn’t play out like you might expect.
On that note, while many people have compared the film to the Richard Connell short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” the film has closer ties to another literary work. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that the marketing contains a huge clue. I’ve also labored to pick spoiler-free photos, which I can assure you, other critics did not.
The Hunt: Let’s Review This B-Word
image via Universal Pictures
And finally, although it will be tricky, I will review The Hunt without spoiling its secrets.
First of all, I’ll be positive, like my blood type. I mention blood because there’s a lot of it. If you’re a gore fan, then you’ll enjoy the blood-spilling in this flick. The movie establishes early on that no one is safe, which definitely keeps audience members on the edges of their seats.
You do get a certain feeling about Betty Gilpin’s character, Crystal, though. She’s got Final Girl vibes all over her. Again, I won’t spoil whether that is her fate or not, but I will say that you can’t take your eyes off her. If you’ve watched Netflix’s GLOW, then this comes as no surprise. Gilpin newbies, though, are in for a treat.
Crystal is someone who’s been underestimated because of forces beyond her control, like her birthplace and the subsequent accent with which it graced her. As a gal from the deepest Deep South, who thought everyone grew up with a reloading room in their house, let’s just say that I can relate.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t find common ground with the so-called elites in this story. I understand Athena’s (Hilary Swank) frustration completely, for example. However, I do think her execution, pun intended, isn’t the right path, either. My sister, who serves as a conservative counterbalance to my radical leftyness, compared it to how she answers her children’s logic. People don’t make you do things, even if they do awful things. You choose how you react.
The Bottom Line
The movie, however, doesn’t seem that interested in exploring that or any of its other interesting diversions, like how conspiracy theories spread. It will present a curious idea and then abandon it in favor of cringey internet discourse like “snowflake” and “crisis actors.” And that’s the biggest shame of all.
Because for all the dust it kicked up, for all the controversy, the movie never actually takes a stand. If it had committed to an ideal, then this The Hunt review might have called it a modern masterpiece. As it is, though, it’s just a more-than-decent horror-comedy. A not-bad way to spend a night at the movies, but certainly not equal to all the fuss it caused. As I said, people relying solely on the trailers or the outraged articles have only a surface-level of the movie. But the movie’s not that deep, either.
The Hunt is in theaters now. Let us know your thoughts on the movie in the comments below or by wildly hashtagging them on social media.
featured image via Universal Pictures
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.