The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, and Wayne Duvall and was directed by Craig Zobel. It tells the story of a group of strangers who awake in a forest with no knowledge of how they got there, only to find that they’re being hunted by a group of wealthy business executives. Right off the bat, I’ve gotta say that I’m glad we finally have this movie. And I’m glad that it wasn’t just dumped onto streaming and actually got a theatrical release (however brief, thanks to current events). So for those who don’t know, this movie stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the weeks leading up to its original Fall 2019 release date. This controversy mostly stemmed from the film’s satirical subject matter and erroneous perception of the movie’s intent.
But that controversy escalated to the national stage and resulted in specific condemnation by the President of the United States. So, this had a cascading effect and there were calls for boycotts and things like that, so Universal pulled the film. The Hunt’s future was pretty unclear for a while, but six months later, we finally have the movie. And after watching The Hunt, two things are incredibly clear to me. One: the outrage and controversy surrounding this film was unwarranted. And two: that controversy is remarkably ironic considering what this movie’s about and the core messages it’s trying to get across. So, let’s talk about that first point; the ridiculousness of the controversy.
This movie is a satire. It’s clearly a satire and a pretty effective one at that. It’s an adaptation of Richard Connell’s infamous short story The Most Dangerous Game and takes that premise and uses it to highlight the very stark political divide that exists in the U.S. right now. So, you’re mixing a story about hunting humans with politics. Obviously that could’ve resulted in an extremely charged and partisan movie that might’ve warranted a little bit of outrage. But the satire in this film isn’t directed at just one end of the political spectrum here ñ everybody gets made fun of and knocked down a bit. Left, right, liberal, conservative; however you want to look at it, nobody in this movie escapes criticism.
The ridiculousness of extremes on both ends of the political spectrum are satirically highlighted here and used to emphasize the irony inherent to the political divide. And speaking of irony, the controversy could not have been any more perfectly fitting for this movie. Seriously, this whole thing seems like it could’ve been a marketing ploy. It wasn’t ñ the boycotting and delay certainly was not intentional, but I just can’t get over how perfectly the response mirrors arguably the central thesis of the movie. There’s a line in this movie that sums up this thesis and absolutely encapsulates the absurdity and irony of the controversy ñ ìYou wanted it to be true, so you decided it was.î You’d think that was a line that they added in response to all this, but no.
The director’s confirmed that he didn’t change a single thing in this movie during the delay. Satire at its finest, I guess. Apart from all that external stuff, I thought this was a pretty fun movie. Some will certainly still view it as pretty polarizing and it’s definitely not a story that everyone will enjoy, but I did. The narrative’s a little messy and it feels a bit rushed at times ñ especially when it finally gets to its central point ñ but it was a surprisingly enjoyable movie for me. It’s got some incredibly dark humor and some situational stuff that I just found to be absurdly amusing. And then you’ve got the super bloody, over-the-top action that only further emphasizes how ridiculous and satirical the movie is.
The Hunt isn’t exactly a subtle film, but you might be surprised by just how much it has to say. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is the premise. Yeah, it’s an adaptation of a pretty well-known short story. And it doesn’t do anything overly impressive with that adaptation, but it’s an interesting, surprisingly breezy movie that kept me engaged throughout. The horror thriller aspects were well-done and I thought the satire was tackled in an unexpectedly encompassing way that really worked for the basic story.
The second pro is Betty Gilpin as Crystal. I gotta admit that at the beginning of the movie she didn’t seem like a character I was gonna like very much, but she ended up being pretty great, thanks in large part to Gilpin’s performance. She brought this great subtlety to the character that was very funny, but also compelling in her resourcefulness. I mentioned the situational humor earlier in the review and some of the best moments of that came with Crystal’s character and how she responded to various things throughout the movie. On the con side, I do think the film lacks a bit of finesse. It’s a satire and a very blunt one at that, but it’s a bit on-the-nose with its delivery at points.
This wasn’t a huge issue for me, but it does come on really strong in the first few minutes and if somebody were to just watch the first act or so, they might get the impression that this is a very partisan movie. But if you watch it all the way through, you’ll see that it’s surprisingly balanced in its political satire. Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying The Hunt or any of the other films I mention today, I do have affiliate links for all of them in the description below.
I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give The Hunt 3.5 out of 5 paws. It’s a brutal, blunt, and extremely dark political satire, but I had a lot of fun with it and I’m really glad it’s finally been released. I would recommend The Hunt to a very specific subset of people. With the over-the-top violence in this movie, you’ve really got to be okay with and like gore and brutal action. On top of that, you’ll definitely get the most out of this movie if you like and appreciate political satires and aren’t too easily offended.
This is definitely gonna be a polarizing film and I’m sure a lot of people are gonna really dislike it. If you liked The Hunt, I would recommend The Naked Prey for another film influenced by The Most Dangerous Game story. That one’s less satirical and there’s some dated racial aspects to it, but it’s a pretty intense action thriller for a 60s movie. If you want some more over-the-top bloody and satirical human hunting, you should check out Battle Royale, the Japanese film that inspired a lot of imitators including The Hunger Games.
If you want another recent dark comedy about somebody unexpectedly having to survive a hunting situation, you’ve gotta watch Ready or Not. And since the book is specifically mentioned a few times in this film, you might want to watch Animal Farm for some relevant political satire. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The Hunt? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite controversial film?