We’ve all lost it. You. Me. Your neighbor. Your neighbor’s dog. We’re all a bunch of rage monsters looking for someone to blame. In our pursuit of judgement on others, we’ve forgotten that individual ideals aren’t black and white. Human personalities are grey. We’re complicated. But a line has been drawn in the sand...
...These days, if you’re a democrat, you hate republicans, and if you’re a republican, you hate democrats. But The Hunt is here to show us all how ridiculous we’ve become, and has a great time while doing it.
…Directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance) and written by Nick Cuse (The Leftovers TV series) and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus), The Hunt has taken a ton of heat, originally being pulled from its 2019 release date over concerns of political timing. Based on the plot, it’s easy to see why. In the film, a group of conservative Americans wake up in the woods with ball gags in their mouths and no recollection of how they got there. Moments later, they discover a crate full of firearms and explosives, soon realizing that they have been kidnapped by a group of “liberal elites” to be hunted for sport in a game known as The Hunt, whispered about on conservative conspiracy theory sites.
Not too difficult to see why some people might not be happy with that synopsis. But here’s the thing: The Hunt isn’t what you think it is. Rather than taking one side or the other, this film is a laugh-out-loud, bloody commentary on both liberal and conservative identifying Americans, poking fun at all of us.
The cast features a ton of actors who have made their careers in comedy or comedic horror, and all of them shine in their roles, even if some only last mere minutes into the film. On one side, we have the liberal hunters, led by Athena (Hilary Swank), who is joined by Ma (Amy Madigan), Richard (Glenn Howerton) and The Doctor (Steve Coulter), to name a few. Leading the charge on the conservative side is Crystal (Betty Gilpin), joined by Gary (Ethan Suplee), Yoga Pants (Emma Roberts) Staten Island (Ike Barinholtz), and more. That’s just a sampling of the huge cast lined up to join the enormous body count of The Hunt.
The Hunt gets the pulse-pounding thrills pumping right away, opening on a hilariously gory confrontation on a plane when one of the conservatives wakes up and stumbles upon the liberals that have kidnapped him. Moments later, Emma Roberts and others are waking up, finding guns, and immediately having hell descend upon them. The Hunt is political warfare, emphasis on the war. Within minutes, the cast is cut nearly in half. Bodies explode. Lives grenades are shoved down pants. And gunfire and arrows rain down like hundreds of tiny capsules of blood-thirsty rage. It’s an intense way to kick off the film, and a mere preview of the non-stop adrenaline rush that is this movie. Despite the film’s politically charged themes, The Hunt doesn’t care to take the time to develop its characters or get us to care for them. Just about every scene is blood-drenched madness. The intent here is a sort of thrilling catharsis for both sides of the political spectrum. It’s all about having fun with the country’s tense climate, and giving a safe outlet for those pesky things called feelings that we all have right now.
For some, that’s going to sound horrid, sick, vile, whatever label you want to put on it. But understand, The Hunt isn’t coming from the sort of angry place that would earn those labels. Again, it’s here to show us how moronic we’re all acting, by proving the point that we’re all the same, but different, and we need to stop assuming we know everything about someone because of the political party they identify with. A novel concept, I know.
Emphasizing that attitude is Gilpin’s character, Crystal. Gilpin rampages through this film like a shark with friggin laser beams on her head, sent to destroy the chaos of the world while whipping up some of her own. She’s the American in the middle of all of the bullshit, with a look of disgust and dissatisfaction over everyone permanently glued to her face. Though she has a (mostly) good heart, Crystal can’t stand those around her. Her character is both smarter and tougher than everyone else, and she proves that again and again and again, leading to plenty of laughs and cheers as she beats the ever-loving shit out of her enemies with the ease of breathing. Crystal is the nonsense defeating hero we all need right now.
The Hunt is a surprisingly funny and entertaining flick, often mocking both groups to varying degrees of success. All throughout, the liberal group is made to look dumber and less prepared than they think they are. They’re just as judgmental and wrong about people as they believe the conservatives are, and, as Crystal consistently points are, are pretty good at fucking up. And then there are comments like Pop (Reed Birney) shouting “global warming is real, asshole” just before he blows away one of the hunted. Not every joke lands, and they’re certainly not going to work on you if you don’t have an open mind to self-deprecating political humor, but the point is, unlike what many have speculated, The Hunt is not: conservatives bad, liberals good. We’re all the targets of the film’s commentative eye.
Amongst the rivers of gore and Gilpin’s innate ability to make us laugh with various smug contortions of her face, is a film with a message that may not be all that complicated but is important nonetheless. We are each other. We have different ideas, and we’re right to disagree with each other on a lot of those ideas, but we can’t simply look at each other as enemies, because we’re ALL Americans. We’re all part of this thing we call life, and we have to work together somehow, whether we like it or not. That point seems pretty obvious when the end fight scene sees one liberal wearing red, and Crystal wearing blue, showcasing that party colors/affiliations do not define us. By the end, they have become each other.
I should also mention, said finale reaches levels of hard-hitting, cringe-worthy violence on the level of Kill Bill’s opening where the Bride faces off against Vernita Green. To say it’s a badass brawl would be a massive understatement. It may even go down as the best fight scene of the year.
The Hunt isn’t going to be for everyone. Not even close. If you’ve seen one humans hunting humans movie, you’ve seen this one. Outside of the action and bloodshed, there’s nothing to it. So, if you’re looking for a well-developed story, The Hunt has no story. Don’t like movies full of politically charged humor that doesn’t always land? Too bad, The Hunt doesn’t care about your touchy feelings. But if you need some much-needed catharsis and a good laugh at the judgmental, over-reactive society we’ve become, with loads of blood and applause worthy action added for a savory flavor, then you had better go out and join The Hunt. It’s one of the simplest (ie dumbest) yet most entertaining horror films of the year so far.
The Hunt begins on March 13th courtesy of Blumhouse and Universal Studios.
By Matt Konopka