After seeing The Hunt, you’ll understand how asinine pre-release protesters now sound (hindsight, dear readers). No political identification is safely coddled. Outrageous rhetoric isn’t intended to be taken as propaganda. All citizens and officials from coast-to-coast, border-to-border, get sucker-socked at least a baker’s dozen times. It’s comical how Blumhouse’s aggressively marketed American satire turns out to be just that: punchline exploitation mockery. A gruesome battle royale that makes Ready Or Not‘s classist warfare seem subtle in comparison, pitch-black and thematically barbed in rabidly hilarious ways.
Across internet chatrooms and forums, conspiracy theorists spin yarns about an elitist hunting club dubbed “Manorgate.” Commenters accuse leftist snobs of abducting red-blooded simpletons and killing them for sport. Turns out, somehow, podcasters and vloggers got this one right when “Manorgate” becomes reality for a selection of unlucky contestants. “Rednecks” from Orlando to the Midwest regain consciousness in a field next to an armory of weapons, who are then fired upon by nested shooters. The game is afoot, and a most dangerous game at that. Will Crystal (Betty Gilpin) and the others survive this bloodthirsty display of the 2nd Amendment?
As you might predict from the immediate “-gate” naming convention, The Hunt guns for low-hanging social media fruits in terms of trigger culture – but that’s inevitably the point. “Snowflake” comments evolve into “problematic” debates around whether including or excluding an African American in “Manorgate” is racist. Gender equality is harshly represented in the form of skull-piercing rounds. Navy veterans fantasize about their Hannity tell-all interviews while brash billionaire sociopaths are trained by military consultants from Tears Of The Sun. Development is that of crudely broad caricatures, which allows writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof to not give a solitary bother about any single character. Necessary when highlighting ridiculousness, not believability.
If you get outraged by The Hunt, you’re not paying attention.
Director Craig Zobel embraces extremes and volatility. Narcissism, fanaticism, ideological egotism, superiority. The Hunt exists so you can laugh at these issues in hopes of weakening their worldly powers – not to incite new civil wars backed on government side-taking. Humor and exaggeration stem from a scorched-earth “fuck you” across the proverbial board. No biased causes to be championed, which is something even my country’s president couldn’t comprehend from a creative standpoint when The Hunt first presented itself on public media channels.
Human desecration by way of carnage-first “retribution” exists to capitalize on mindnighter tones. Practical effects prove, early on, quite sensationally brutal. Everything from tendon-y eye trauma to explosive combustion to headshots that send shards of cranium whizzing multiple directions. The more inerts we identify, the more we’re reminded of how The Hunt is meant to be a farfetched dystopia we damn well never want to experience. Same mentality as The Purge. Cinema in its most eccentric expressions can make us ponder real-world issues while still gasping aloud and squealing with glee as provocative pageantry takes center stage. Brilliant special effects keep us anything but grounded, which – once again – is the film’s most precious quality.
Betty Gilpin delivers an unrivaled tough-nut attitude throughout The Hunt. A bit She-Rambo off the grid. This backwoods creep-seeking-missile is hungry for unglorified (but “gorified”) justice after waking up in some one-percenter’s shooting gallery. She’s the total package. A rare heroine who’s never reliant on any late-act blubbering breakdown, always an alpha no matter her company. Gilpin’s talk is dirt cheap, fight choreography rock ‘em sock ‘em enraged, and exterior tougher than Adamantium plates. This top-tier Gilpin deserves to lead her own action franchise, spittin’ Southern drawlin’ sarcasm. This Gilpin will leave you craving more.
Trailers already depict Gilpin’s Crystal as The Hunt’s leading actress (no spoilers), but the film’s handling of supporting players is another treat for genre fans. In the way 2005’s Feast toys with character importance, so does The Hunt as opening narratives intertwine. Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, and Ike Barinholtz are all trying to make sense of their new surroundings. Glenn Howerton, Macon Blair, Hilary Swank all debating the ethics of appropriating a kimono while sipping expensive liquors and quoting NPR. Sturgill Simpson’s appearance nails Floridian roasting on par with The Good Place. It is every performer’s duty to make you hate them, and most are firing on all cylinders. Plus, bonus, Swank teaches us how to make one hell of a grilled cheese sandwich.
The Hunt is nothing to fear and everything to applaud. It’s as much of a mirror to society as, say, Escape From New York or The Warriors. No bigoted advocation for “right vs. left” warfare, just a hearty reminder of how stupid we all look when posturing illogical hearsay and spewing word vomit across the internet. Take any film that favors grenade puns over soapbox preaching as sincere as it takes itself – but also remember to eat the rich’s caviar and drink their priceless champagne. Yes, The Hunt contains multitudes along with an all-time performance from Betty Gilpin.
The Hunt puts the "F-U" in midnight "fun" as no sides are safe in this middle-finger cultural roast that's as loudly defiant as it is proudly blood-soaked.