Back in 2019 the movie The Hunt was scheduled to be released but, after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Universal Studios decided to pause the release of the film (you can read about that here).
Before that happened, I wrote about the film and its original trailer, which I felt gave away pretty much the total story of the film (you can read the original article here, but beware that some of the embedded material, including that original trailer, were taken down).
If you go to that original article, I go into what this movie obviously is: Another riff on what I think may be the most adapted story of all time, Richard Connell’s 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game.
The story involved a shipwreck victim who washes up on an island only to realize the man who lives there has a peculiar habit: He likes to hunt human prey.
The story was first adapted into a movie with the same name in 1932 and since then I can’t count the times either movies or TV shows or books offer a similar story with that common theme: The idea that someone has decided to hunt humans.
Anyway, after a fashion The Hunt was finally released in March of 2020. This is one of the main trailers used for the film when it was finally released:
Earlier this morning I managed to finish the film off and… man, there is so much to like about it.
I loved Betty Gilpin as Crystal and Hilary Swank, in what amounts to a cameo, was wonderful as the hissable villain. The direction is crisp, the action presented bloody in a grindhouse way. And the concept, while once again owing to Richard Connell’s original story, manages for the most part to present an exciting variation of the well used hunter-hunting-humans concept.
The makers of the film, specifically screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, decided to add another element to the story. They decided to satire current right/left wing politics, presenting the “hunters” as stereotypical liberals and the hunted as stereotypical conservatives. I’m sure “on paper” it sounded like a clever idea, but for me that concept played out really quickly and soon became alternately off-putting and obvious while never quite being as humorous as I suspect they thought it was.
So we have scenes where the hunters talk about global warming or speak about racism while figuring out the proper way to call an African American and do this while gleefully murdering their “conservative” prey who we find slaughter endangered animals or have conspiracy podcasts… and it’s just not all that amusing.
John Carpenter in a few of his films takes on societal satire but manages to do so in a far more effective ways (check out Escape From New York or They Live). Here, I wished the film focused more on its main plot and, especially, Crystal and her fight for survival and not hit us over the head with so many too-obvious “jokes” about liberal or conservative silliness.
If the film had decided to accept and accentuate its Grindhouse elements more while toning down and/or eschewing the obvious -and after a while increasingly silly- political commentaries and not gotten so into the weeds about why the hunt existed (it is explained and, frankly, it was yet another dumb political element, IMHO), the film would have been much more successful.
As it is, if you are in the mood for some bloody fun and can ignore the annoyance of the “satire” that plays out much quicker than the writers thought, then you may find enough to enjoy in this film.