“The Hunt” Movie Review


     Whether or not you follow politics, most will recall the infamous campaign line during the 2016 Presidential election where Hilary Clinton referred to Donald Trump’s supporters as “deplorables”.  The line has gone on to be a mantra of sorts for those on the far right, particularly within the vast and quite active social media following the President currently enjoys.  Imagine their fire and fury when last summer, insiders from conservative media groups learned director Craig Zobel’s “The Hunt” was to feature a plot involving liberal elites hunting deplorables for sport!  Of course no one actually got to see the film when its early September release date was scrapped because of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, and the controversy was put to rest for the time being.  Now released with an ad campaign referring to the film as “The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen.”, the film arrives during the coronavirus pandemic, which means a lot of empty movie theaters and a subdued reaction to the purportedly divisive film.  Considering how bad it is, this is probably for the best.

     To bring any sort of attention to “The Hunt”, regardless of what side you are on, would be a tremendous waste of time.  Put simply, the film isn’t worth talking about, let alone the controversy.  Funnily enough, the story is exactly what you have heard, but that doesn’t mean it ends the way you think.  Essentially, screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Linelof create characters and dialogue who exhibit all of the stereotypical behaviors and beliefs which we think liberals and conservatives display, and put them in scenes allowing them to regurgitate their positions to one another.  

     The liberals, who are vegan of course, speak about race and gender politics, climate change, and their belief that all conservatives are uneducated and thus ill-equipped to have a sensible voice in the issues that shape the country.  Conversely, the conservatives are presented as racist gun fanatics who flaunt their second amendment rights and their patriotism as they dismiss any ideas that would mean possible change to what they believe is the only way to run this country.  In some cases, Zobel allows both sides to interact and exchange their disdain for one another, often with hilarious results, but don’t be fooled.  “The Hunt” leans more towards a number of common horror tropes and seeks to thrill the audience with heavy doses of violence and gore in order to entertain.  There is absolutely nothing of substance here.

     The film opens with a view of a text thread between several unidentified characters conversing about their disdain for the President, but also their excitement for the upcoming opportunity to hunt deplorables.  That apparently becomes a reality when the action shifts to a remote open field where twelve people awaken with gags in their mouths, unaware how they got there.  The camera may focus for a couple minutes on one of them, giving the indication this is someone who we may spend considerable time with, but then suddenly the person’s head explodes as it is hit by sniper fire.  There is death coming from all angles, much of it is played more for laughs than something truly horrific or terrifying.  Perhaps a hint all of this is the filmmaker’s idea of fun, rather than something intending to actually make a statement about us as a society.

     Eventually, the group is whittled down to a couple people after we are treated to a series of grisly and imaginative death scenarios all too common to the Blumhouse brand responsible for producing the film.  One of them, Crystal (Betty Gilpin), seems to be well prepared to make a stand, as if the liberal elites made a grave error in choosing her to be a part of their game.  Other notables who join her for the stretch run include Don (Wayne Duvall), a older cowboy type gentleman proudly wearing a USA hat, and Gary (Ethan Suplee), a controversial conservative radio host.  All of it leads to a showdown with the event organizer, Athena (Hilary Swank), but never adds up to much.  There isn’t much of a story here in a film more interested in violence and the occasional one liner.  

     It’s actually interesting a film like this would cause so much controversy in the first place.  Anyone remember John Woo’s debut film in the United States?  Back in 1993, action star Jean Claude Van Damme became entangled with a group of rich men who put on hunts for other rich men where they would give a money belt with ten grand in it to a homeless military veteran and tell him if he could get from point A to point B without being killed, he could keep the money.  Spoiler alert, they never made it to point B.  The film was “Hard Target”, and no one cared.  And while that film had plenty of merits, “The Hunt” comes off as lame and unoriginal.  It’s amazing, given their substantial cost, how some of these films even get made. GRADE: D