The concept behind The Hunt is an ingenious one: what if radical members of one political group kidnapped and then hunted members of the diametrically opposite group? Kind of The Hunger Games, but with Elites versus Rednecks, Liberals versus Deplorables, Red versus Blue, you get the idea. Not The Hunger Games, though, something more akin to the classic Japanese horror thriller Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru); it’s people versus people, not people versus the system.
When word of the storyline of The Hunt leaked out, the media went bonkers, basically wringing their collective hands and decrying that “there’s already so much of a divide in our country, do we need a film that makes it worse?” even as they happily sold papers and magazines by writing about it. Media manipulation by Blumhouse, the production company that’s been on a tear with its horror oeuvre? Maybe. Certainly the film was pulled from the 2019 slate and is only now being released with posters that invite you to “Decide For Yourself!” about the subject matter.
Here’s the scoop: Mostly The Hunt is actually an engaging and surprising horror thriller, splattery as heck (even I cringed at a few scenes and closed my eyes at least once during the film) and very much a modern slasher with group v. group instead of group v. individual psycho killer. Not only that there are also some funny and mildly insightful lines that offer a commentary on the political divide in the USA, lines like a kind older woman warning her husband not to drink soda because “it’s poisoned! It has over 40 grams of sugar and other cancerous ingredients!”.
The film opens with us seeing a group text sharing collective enthusiasm for “the hunt” where they will “be able to hunt down some of those deplorables”. Is it real? Is there really a hunt where one group kidnaps and murders another group of people? Turns out that doesn’t really matter. In fact, rather surprisingly, most of the politics is secondary to the simple thriller element of people are trying to kill you, what are you going to do?
It’s indicative of the shallow storyline that the cast includes characters named Staten Island, Yoga Pants, Target, Vanilla Nice, Big Red and The Doctor. On one side of the battle is toppled elite business owner Athena (Hilary Swank) while on the other side, the most savvy of all the hunted is former soldier and rental car employee Crystal (Betty Gilpin). Don’t expect a deep and thoughtful cast with engaging background stories, however, and, as many teens have learned in the modern horror genre, don’t get too attached to a character in the storyline either. ‘nuf said on that!
About 75% through the film there are a couple of flashback scenes that purport to “explain” what’s going on, and there’s a climactic fight scene that’s so daft that even the obvious physical metaphors of what weapons are utilized falls so flat that the final scene comes as a relief. Might the film have ended a few minutes earlier with a stronger ending? Possibly, but it’s only a 90min running time as is, so chopping it down to 75min or 80min and people will wonder why they had to pay for a full price ticket.
So is The Hunt a great political satire, a statement on our modern world and our ability to spin and skew what “the other side” says to meet our own interests and beliefs? Not really. Is it a great horror film? Again, no, not really. But it might just scratch an itch if you want to see a splattery horror thriller that ultimately is about survival, with plenty of twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Just don’t expect much and you won’t walk out too disappointed.
Dad At The Movies Note: Seriously, no. This is not the film for anyone younger than late teens, and even then I would strongly suggest that they already be desensitized to gore and violence. This is a violent movie, no question about it. And now that I think about it, do you really want your kids to be desensitized to violence and gore? Hmm….