The Hunt Review
The Hunt was originally scheduled to be released last year, however, following rumours of bad screening reactions, a tweet from Trump and out of respect for victims of gun violence after shootings at Dayton and El Paso, Universal pulled the film from their release schedule.
The updated trailer for the film positions The Hunt as the most talked about film of the year, one that no-one has even seen, and yet they’re not exactly wrong. It seems like great publicity, but is it actually any good? Here’s the thing: The Hunt isn’t the mess we feared it might be, but also isn’t the controversial, political statement we thought (hoped?) it might be. As it turns out, the mere mention of politics doesn’t necessarily make the film itself political. Which is okay, because the end product is perfectly fine as gory, disposable entertainment.
The film opens on a group of strangers who wake up gagged in a rural field before scrambling to grab some weapons, conveniently left at their disposal while bullets start to rip through them. This is all that should really be said, because anything else starts to become a detailed plot summary and that’s not what we’re here for. Suffice to say this isn’t the film you're (potentially) expecting. Firstly, and most disappointingly, there’s very little people-hunting. There’s no stalking of prey, no Hi-Vis vests or taking trophies from victims. The Hunt markets itself as an outrageous, wild film about a group of elites hunting “deplorables”, but isn’t actually that interested in the hunting itself.
It also employs a bizarre structure. Don’t get too attached to any of the characters; The Hunt proves within the first 15 minutes that everyone is disposable. Betty Gilpin’s Crystal is as close as we get to having a protagonist and she’s wonderfully bonkers here. The script’s strength is not treating her as a tragic hero or a final girl, but an unlikeable person trapped in terrible conditions. She needs to get from point A to B and perhaps uncovers why she has woken up gagged with a bunch of strangers.
Hilary Swank is also having a good time as the fabulously camp and bitchy Athena. While the film takes way too long in bringing her into the action, it’s all the better for having such a fun character present. She is horrendously underwritten, but she is far from alone in that regard. No-one has a motive or personality, with 99% of the characters there to die for our entertainment.
And let’s be honest, the violence is why we’re here, why the audience will spend money on a ticket and popcorn. While no-one expects to cry or laugh during a film like this, The Hunt does provide a few good chuckles. It’s so earnestly ludicrous that it’s hard to buy into its themes and ideas. If it doesn’t take itself seriously, why should we? But the violence is indeed glorious, almost gleeful at times, serving up blood, guts, eyeballs and all kinds of nasty stuff in a fun and comical manner. The film may not be for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, but it offers a lot of spectacle and goodies for fellow gore hounds.
From its very first moments, this film lays out its intentions. It will divide audiences and certainly anger many people without good reason, due to director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof’s refusal to pick a side. While the film attempts to show there are awful people on both sides, instead it almost suggests there are good people on either side of the divide, mostly because we’re never given the opportunity to get to know any of the people involved.
If you prefer your horrors and thrillers to be violent rather than scary, chances are you will find The Hunt quite entertaining, but if the sight of blood and guts makes you sick, this might not be for you. Gilpin’s unhinged performance pretty much makes or breaks the entire film, depending how willing you are to throw yourself into a world of people hunting and shallow politics.
The Hunt opens nationwide in cinemas on March 11.