★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Controversial, violent, and inflammatory; this darkly-comedic horror-adjacent battle royale will definitely give you something to talk about.
Directed by Craig Zobel
There was a lot going on with The Hunt (2020) before it ever made it up on a screen. Originally slated for a September 2019 release, Universal first postponed and then pulled it from the release schedule due to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas (August 3rd) and Dayton, Ohio (August 4th). Before it was ultimately shelved, people from all over the country — including the Twitter-addicted man living in the White House — decried The Hunt as divisive, offensive, and an inappropriate glorification of violence.
In February 2020, Universal announced a new U.S. release date of March 13 (Friday the 13th) for the much maligned film giving it a new trailer and an updated tagline:
The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen.
Only a week into its theatrical run, The Hunt was released to all the usual streaming platforms on account of the coronavirus pandemic; nobody was going out to the movies anymore.
On IMDB, The Hunt is listed as an “Action, Horror, Thriller” movie. As the film’s title implies, it’s a movie about people hunting people, but is that horror? The Jean-Claude Wham Bam movie Hard Target (1993) and Fay Wray‘s The Most Dangerous Game (1932) are pretty much about the same thing, but they aren’t listed as horror. The Hunt does have a bunch of grisly kills, though — the landmine incident comes to mind in particular — so maybe we’ll go with horror by SFX rather than horror by storyline.
Luckily, the visuals and action sequences in this movie are exactly why you need to see it. After a few surprises in the beginning, the story itself is predictable. Not necessarily in a bad way; it just doesn’t throw the viewer very many curveballs. But who needs curveballs when you’re shoving hand grenades down a guy’s pants?! Am I right? The action in The Hunt is well-crafted and perfectly woven into the fabric of the film. Just when you’ve caught your breath, the characters are off and running again.
The basic premise of The Hunt involves a group of around 10 “liberal elite” hunters who have gathered up 12 conservative “deplorables” to hunt. With such a large cast, keeping track of them all can be a bit confusing, but both sides tend to get whittled down pretty quickly. Not that any of them are all that likable, but as a darkly-comedic and occasionally offensive collection of murderous caricatures it can still be highly entertaining. Emma Roberts [TV’s American Horror Story (2013 – 2019)] does a great job starting things off as “Yoga Pants” while “Don” [Wayne Duvall; The Kitchen (2019)] plays an excellent foil to Betty Gilpin’s [The Grudge (2020)] “Crystal.”
And Betty Gilpin owns this movie. She’s taken it home, nailed it to a chunk of wood, and has it hanging over her fireplace. If ever there were questions about Gilpin’s ability to carry a feature-length film, they have all been resoundingly and unreservedly quashed. From her character’s quiet discipline to her squeamishly off-center retelling of “The Tortoise and The Hare” to the epic and beautifully choreographed fight scene with Hilary Swank [I Am Mother (2019)], Gilpin holds her own and comes off looking like a brand new action hero.
Is The Hunt a masterpiece of social satire that gives the audience revelatory insight into today’s polarized society? Well, no, not really. Is it ninety minutes of action, entrails, and explosions guaranteed to take your mind off viruses and toilet paper hoarders?
Yes, yes! A thousand times yes.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.