Movie Review: ‘The Hunt’

Director: Craig Zobel

Cast: Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Justin HartleyHillary Swank

Plot: A group of rich and powerful liberals kidnap a group of conservative conspiracy theorists in order to hunt them for sport. The victims are forced into a brutal game of survival as they try to outwit the hunters.

Review: Well, here it is. The most controversial film of 2020. Actually, if that turns out to be true then cinema is having a quiet year, even for a year with a global pandemic. I’m always turned off a project that seems designed to court controversy, but I don’t think that was the original intent with The Hunt – after Trump started blubbering and claiming it encourages attacks on conservatives based on hearsay the media picked up the ball and ran with it. You can’t hold it against the film-makers for Trump acting like an alarmist nutball.

Then you get this poster:

At least they acknowledge that no-one has actually seen it yet, and you should decide for yourself. That’s true, you’ll find that it’s not an especially edgy political statement, nor is it the best in the sub-genre of human hunting thrillers.

The Hunt has a stuttering start, with a chain of text messages that you’re bound to forget about before they become relevant in the narrative, an introduction to the ‘hunters’ you won’t clearly remember before we see them again and, finally, a group of victims waking up in the woods bound and gagged. They find a crate containing keys for their restraints and a cache of weapons, which they equip themselves with before coming under fire. After moving through a couple of point of view characters, which is an effective way to put the audience on each, we settle on Crystal (Gilpin). Crystal turns out to be a tough, well trained and resourceful foe for the hunters and she teams with a conspiracy based podcast host (Suplee, who we were happy to see on screens again) and they make a break for freedom.

In all the ways Get Out inserted a sly gag or piece of symbolism to create a thematic undercurrent of racism and class division, The Hunt bludgeons you over the head with broad stereotypes and political statements. Everyone is an asshole who is designed to be a gross caricature of political extremists. This makes them hard to take seriously. It may not have been the original intent of the movie to make this a social and political commentary, but that’s certainly where it has ended up and if you go into The Hunt expecting that kind of incendiary action than you’re going to be left disappointed.

What you will get is an enjoyably schlocky, extremely violent thriller about humans hunting each other for fun. The political angle of those involves adds a wry sense of mirth to the adventure. Suplee’s scene about ‘crisis babies’ is bloody funny, but it’s got nothing more going for it than poking fun. Horror fans will appreciate the gore, but it’s hard to see this making more of a splash than it already has.

Rating: SIX out of TEN