The rich have always abused the poor, and now we have a movie about it!
The Hunt follows a handful of strangers after waking up disoriented and gagged at the mouth in the middle of nowhere with little information to go on save for a crate full of weapons and a vague feeling that they’ll need to be using them sometime soon. Thinking that they have been kidnapped and brought to a place called Manor House, where, according to rumor and hearsay, is a place where the rich hunt the poor for sport, a sick and twisted game of exactly that begins, pitting a shadowy group of elites against a handful of oblivious laymen that can barely hold a gun, let alone use one. As the game kicks into high gear and each stranger starts to drop at an alarming rate as the rich pick them off one by one like fish in a bucket, one stranger in particular, Crystal (Betty Gilpin), who oddly seems to be far more qualified for this kind of sadistic form of entertainment than her fellow bucket fish seem to be, takes it upon herself to turn the game in her favor by effectively and efficiently slaughtering her predators one by one until she either kills them all or escapes with her life. It’s her versus them, and it looks like she just might have the upper hand.
After a delayed release date due to concerns surrounding the content of the film at the time (Universal Pictures moved then pulled the movie following two mass shootings that had happened around the same time), The Hunt is equal parts about the violence that is happening onscreen as well as the idea of two opposing ideological sides of the same coin that just can never seem to play nice. I’m talking about red vs. blue, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated – it’s a grudge match between good old America and its usual problems within itself, and while some of the commentary loses steam along the way (especially during the third act), the overall strong scripting, unique kills and darkly comical nature of it all helps The Hunt become one of the most entertaining films of the year, even if its content isn’t for everyone.
What I enjoyed most about this film, and was surprised at how well it worked, was the actual violence and how fun it was to watch unfold. By taking cues from a typical horror/slasher film and turning the proceedings into what basically amounts to a hard R-rated Hunger Games (to an extent), The Hunt relishes in giving us enough cannon fodder to keep us entertained while simultaneously hanging the plot on a badass and competent female protagonist in Crystal that is as smart as she is resourceful, a combination that we usually only get half of with this genre of films. Not only is Crystal able to bring the fury of a person wronged and a thirst for vengeance along with her as she tears through the elitists holding her captive with nary a hint of emotion for their brutal games, but she also gives the audience a sort of “everyman” to root for that I was happy to see explored. We usually don’t get a lot of female counterparts in regards to this kind of character, so the attention paid to making Crystal a standout character is much appreciated.
The other strengths of the movie don’t necessarily come from the topical comments on today’s society that are hit or miss, or the idea that rich people are assholes in general (they are), but with the morbid comedy that inadvertently bubbles up to the surface as said topical comments are used as an excuse to make blood spatter look like crimson paint thrown across a canvas that beckons you to stare at it with wide eyes and an open mouth. The filmmakers toe a line between what they want to say about America’s current political and sociological climate and what works for the story of the film, and while it feels a little trite and heavy handed at times, the entire idea of structuring a movie around this idea is sound and allows the violence and odd quirky attitude this script holds to flourish. I for one, loved the angle the filmmakers took for this one, and was on board for all of the insanity as it happened, even if some of the message gets muddled by the time the credits rolled.
With an idea that tries a bit too hard to show both sides of a topical coin that makes the heartless elitists and oblivious rednecks out to be less layered and more stereotypical than what seems to be needed, The Hunt is way more fun when simply watched as a slasher-esque, Cabin in The Woods type of horror/thriller that entertains with buckets of blood and a knife to the throat. I highly enjoyed myself watching this film mostly due to a script that has an inherent sort of quirk and sadistic charm to it that the filmmakers step into fully, making this one more of an over-the-top, well done B-movie with something to say. If the theaters weren’t all closed up until who knows when I might have just helped myself to a second showing!