Review: ‘The Hunt’ Was Not Worth the Heated Hype
By Daniel Rester
The Hunt caused quite the stir when its trailer was released in 2019. After the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, some people — including President Donald Trump (though not Tweeting the film by name) — criticized the film as a dangerous, anti-conservative piece of propaganda. Universal delayed The Hunt because of this, which of course made some horror fans want to see it even more. The irony is that the film skewers both the Left and the Right, proving once again that people should never judge a movie by its trailer. The Hunt also proves that it wasn’t really worth all the controversial hype.
Directed by Craig Zobel (who also made the much better Compliance (2012)), The Hunt follows a group of people (presumed conservatives) who wake up in a field and are gagged. They find a box with weapons — and a pig named Orwell — before quickly being shot at by snipers. As they struggle to survive, the victims are picked off one by one by “elites” (presumed liberals). One of hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin), turns out to be quite the fighter as she turns the tables on the people playing their version of “the most dangerous game.”
Written by Nick Cuse and the prolific Damon Lindelof as a satire of the American political divide, The Hunt is a darkly comic wink at the conflicting beliefs of Left and Right people. But it remains just a wink and isn’t the smart, incendiary wake-up call it aims to be. The script is too broad with its attacks and features characters that only play one note for the most part. Instead of getting a complex dive into the differences of these people, we are instead treated with people who are just there to be easy jokes about gun owners, vegans, crisis actors, etc.
The biggest thing Zobel and his writers do successfully get across is how easy it is for misinformation to spread as hate on the Internet these days. The third act presents some welcome curveballs as characters are blamed for things they may or may not have done. These twists make the audience think about how even the silliest things presented as ideas can come with some serious consequences.
The Hunt doesn’t provide much food for thought beyond that insight on misinformation. What it does have is some well-staged carnage and obvious comedic touches throughout. There are also references to the novella Animal Farm (1945) and the Aesop Fable The Tortoise and the Hare, because why not?
What holds The Hunt together is an excellent performance by Gilpin as the no-nonsense Crystal. She makes the character tough and likable no matter which “side” you’re on. Other talented folks like Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, and Ethan Suplee show up in the cast, but no one really leaves a mark outside of Gilpin except for Glenn Howerton (who plays the “Golden God” Dennis Reynolds on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-present), a show that has much better dark satire than what is found here).
Zobel’s film is timely and shot with skill, but it comes across as a surface-level satire. There’s a lot of savage violence and politics-poking dialogue, but little of it actually shocks or punches you in the gut. At least The Hunt has Gilpin though. She is clearly a star on the rise.
My Grade: 5.2/10 (letter grade equivalent: C)
MPA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, and language throughout)
Running Time: 1h 30min
USA Release Date: March 13th, 2020