'The Hunt' Explores Political Division with the Subtlety of a Trump Tweet Directed by Craig Zobel
Starring Hilary Swank, Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz
Published Mar 11, 2020As a commentary on America's political divide, The Hunt has all the subtlety of a Trump tweet. It concerns a group of wealthy neo-liberals who round up some conservative trolls and slaughter them for sport in the wilderness. It's not a particularly nuanced satire, to say the least.
The Hunt boils down to a clunky centrist argument about how both sides in a political argument are wrong. Everyone is a caricature — all of the left-wingers are smug, patronizing elites who soapbox about climate change, while the right-wingers are xenophobic conspiracy theorists.
The hillbilly conservatives are credited by names like Yoga Pants (Emma Roberts) and Staten Island (Ike Barinholtz), and they meet gory deaths after waking up in a forest filled with weapons and booby traps. People get their heads blasted open and their limbs blown off in some truly gruesome scenes of violence. Finally, one of the rednecks, Crystal (GLOW's Betty Gilpin), lasts long enough to fight back against the murderous lefties, led by Athena (Hilary Swank). Crystal's Tarantino-like revenge spree might count as schadenfreude, if only we were cheering for anyone.
As a dystopian horror, The Hunt is a gripping thrill-ride, kind of like The Hunger Games but with an R-rating and a sadistic sense of humour. It's a cutthroat survival story where no one can be trusted and bloody dismemberment waits around every corner. The film's fearlessness in suddenly killing off characters makes for some genuinely shocking deaths.
But as a satire, The Hunt shows its hand too clearly: it beats audiences over the head with buzzwords like "deplorables" and "cucks," and the whole thing resembles a high school English paper where the assignment was "write a political allegory inspired by Animal Farm." The script is based on the 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game," but the references are so specific that The Hunt could never be misinterpreted as being about anything other than post-2016 America.
There's so much judgemental snark that scriptwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof come across no better than the trolls they're making fun of. And in doing so, they sidestep the real villains in their own story. They make little attempt to critique the corrupt political strategies, media conglomerates or corporate interests that have divided America. Instead, The Hunt ultimately targets normal people — y'know, the ones who will supposedly be buying tickets for this thing.
(Blumhouse / Universal)