Halloween Month Review: The Hunt (2019)
The Hunt aims at all, hits no one.
The idea of picking up the most controversial sounding phrases from reviews and plastering them proudly over its main poster should say more about The Hunt than any of the quoted reviewers have.
But I suppose it is Donald Trump's fault who called the film "racist" (rather rich, that) simultaneously forcing Blumhouse to push the release date and handing them an opportunity on a silver platter to start marketing the film as ultra-controversial.
After watching the film, however, I am kind of confused about this reaction.
The plot, derived from the basic mechanics of The Hunger Games and The Purge (not to mention 1932 classic The Most Dangerous Game) concerns strangers who wake up to find themselves hunted by the rich..
Where The Hunt surprises, is by subverting the presumption that these kinds of fun-and-games, at least in cinema, are more suited to the tastes of the gun-toting Republicans/Right Wing rather Left Liberals. In one amusing scene, an old couple discusses the niceties of politically correct language as they are disposing the bodies of people they have just killed.
For all I understand, it should have been the Left criticizing the film than Trump. Yes, the victims are called "deplorable" (see screenshot below) by the Liberal rich here but they are still the victims! And the only violence that the film celebrates is when one of these "deplorable" hits back.
Politics aside, the film has humor and is always engaging as survivalist films are. It does a Psycho on its viewers, by focusing on one character, making the audience believe that this is the hero, before killing them unceremoniously. This happens, at least five times before it settles on for good at Crystal (Betty Gilpin, whom I really liked as an action hero). A war veteran, Crystal proves too smart for our hunters and soon it is they who are dropping like flies.
But as noted above, this film has commitment issues.
Not just with which political side it wants to take and its silly message at the end, but also with how far it wants to go with its concept. Films like these are generally much darker and when it is revealed spoiler alert: that we are not even in the US, that is the chance for the film to hit it harder. But it stays happy to operate on the level it does: more an action film, than horror. It also skips important details about its world-building, a lot like Antebellum.
There are some bright spots, though.
The opening discussion in the place where one of the first-class travelers asks the stewardess if she has had caviar brings the theme of class warfare sharply into focus and thankfully the director does not lose focus of this,
Screenwriter Damon Lindelof in the film's defense calls the film "harmless", which is much closer to the truth. In fact, he could have also called it toothless and cowardly. The Hunt pokes fun at both political sides and it is funny. The problem is the thesis it arrives at. All sides should be nice to each other is a great message in a classroom, but considering what precedes in the film before this, it is almost like an SNL sketch.
The final showdown between Crystal and Athena (Hilary Swank) is well done but it probably wouldn't have existed if Uma Thurman and Vivica Fox had not squared it off in the kitchen. Having said that, it is these two ladies that provide the film with its best moments.
So the main problem with this film is not even that it wants to get off in the end by saying "Hey, I was just kidding! We are all one". The main issue here is that The Hunt is largely unimaginative and only sporadically effective.