The Hunt - that one forgetable entertaining film with superficial social commentary
"The most talked about movie of the year" is available for streaming, after a short theatrical release
While The Hunt's marketing campaign benefited from Trump's antagonistic tweets, the set expectations around it may have had a role in the final disappointment. Tagline: "The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one's actually seen", appeared appropriate after the US president called the 2020 film "inflaming and causing chaos". In his series of tweets from 2019, Donald Trump additionally used it as a motive to call Hollywood "racist", some conservative critics agreed, while Hollywood Reporter published an article claiming that some members of The Hunt's test audience felt discomfort about the film's politics. But what started this reaction?
The film begins with a group of 12 people waking up in a clearing surrounding a manor house. Very soon, they are killed off one by one and their demonstrated love for guns does not save them from the attackers. Several familiar faces stand out; Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, Ike Barinholtz, but not even their real-life fame saves them from being shot, blown up or impaled before the first-15 minute mark. After the carnage, only two people are left alive. One is a young woman named Crystal and the other is a man who is dependent on her to survive. This is because Crystal– starring Betty Gilpin – is the only out of the entire group that seems to be clever, capable and skilled enough for this challenge.
What we learn in the very first scene is that behind the kidnapping is a group of wealthy liberals led by a woman called Athena –played by Hillary Swank - who decide to kidnap several deplorables – referencing the term Hillary Clinton used for Trump supporters in the 2016 election campaign- and take them to a large estate, where they will be released and hunt down for fun. The survival pair is also sure that the group is behind this or at least Crystal's companion is. He has seen the evidence of their existence and already talked about it on his podcast. And Reddit.
When the seemingly escape, it is revealed to them that they are not in Arkansas, as they were lead to believe, but in Croatia. A strange development, but no stranger that the Croatian that some of the actors are supposed to speak. From then on, the tactic of the pair turns to offense, as they decide to bring the group down. Gilpin proves to be the film's shining light. Her presence is engaging as she plays an enigmatic, rough around the edges, silent woman who is set to survive. Her character makes us question about her identity, but also poses a question: Why is she the only one who doesn't speak solely in clichés?
This is a valid thought since every other character is a personification of one or another trait that we see on the far ends of the political spectrum. There is an avid wildlife hunter, a conspiracy theorist podcaster and liberal kidnappers fight about whether the proper term is "black" or "African American". These characters are written to poke fun of everything wrong with both liberals and conservatives, but the attempts of humor often fall short, since we've seen it all before. Success is found elsewhere. How these characters die is grotesque, bloody and absurd, reminiscing of Tarantino's best and every fight is perfectly edited to hold our attention, especially the showdown between Athena and Crystal, which incorporates moments of pure exhaustion and avoidance of unnecessary glass breaking.
The Hunt used superficial observations to make social commentary and the plot leaves us asking if we were supposed to get more from it that we did. Yet, working simply as a low budget black comedy thriller, this film has enough charm, energy, charm and a great lead who has already proven herself in the Netflix series Glow.
The production house behind The Hunt is Blumhouse Productions, one that is behind many familiar projects that have a common thread of satire. From Get Out, BlackkKlasman, The Purge to entertaining horrors Happy Death Day and Paranormal Activity and the new The Invisible Man. It is clear that the people behind this film have a history of dissecting society's problems in smart and innovative ways, often with humorous results, but The Hunt does not cut deep enough. Its entertainment value is there, but its effort to speak of deep America's divide falls short.