‘The Hunt’ Movie Review: The Most Dangerous Satire

The Hunt was supposed to come out Sept. 27, 2019. Universal decided to pull the film out of sensitivity to the mass shootings in Dayton, OH and El Paso, TX. President Trump also criticized the film, leading many to criticize Universal’s decision, fearing it could set a precedent for the President censoring art. 

Now, the controversy surrounding The Hunt is part of its marketing campaign, which only strengthens the film’s satire. It would have been just as powerful had The Hunt come out as intended. Perhaps when people see the film, studios will think twice about getting cold feet in the future. 

‘The Hunt’ is the most ‘Most Dangerous Game’

A group of strangers wakes up in a field, gagged with a case of weapons at their disposal. The viewer already knows they have been selected for a hunt because one of them woke up too early on the flight over. Also, the movie is called The Hunt. The Hunt doesn’t explain the game. It let’s the viewer discover it as the characters strategize or fall into traps. It’s gorier than most ’80s slasher movies too.

Richard Connell’s story, The Most Dangerous Game, has inspired movies from the literal 1932 adaptation to ‘90s hits Hard Target and Surviving the Game. The Hunger Games certainly takes a cue from the story too. The idea of hunters hunting other humans has always been a metaphor for man’s inhumanity towards man, and an exciting premise for an action movie. The Hunt has a twist though.

‘The Hunt’ satirizes modern social media

Most adaptations of The Most Dangerous Game are about how the privileged prey upon the less fortunate. The Hunt literally pits “deplorables,” as they call them, against liberal elite hunters. By making explicit the politics of the hunters and the hunted, The Hunt is specifically a modern day satire, but its target is not what you think.

The Hunt uses all the language of our modern discourses. It’s impressive the way screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse worked buzzwords like “climate change is real,” “crisis actors” and “godless elites” into the dialogue. That’s not as easy when you’re trying to tell a story and not just posting a random tweet storm. So the script captures the personas of the social media news cycle and then heightens them to an extreme degree. Inside jokes about social media friendly celebrities are especially biting. 

L-R: Ike Bariholtz, Amy Madigan and Reed Birney | Universal Pictures

Since the people being hunted are trapped in this arena as it were, there are only brief hints of the outside world. It could be some near future or perhaps an alternate present. It’s one in which Sean Hannity still exists, either way. That mystery only enhances the satire of just how close to our world it could be. 

The Hunt ultimately has a message for our social media dominated time, but to explain what that message is would give away the film’s surprises. Once you get to the end though, you’ll realize The Hunt is not indulging in violent fantasies. It’s holding viewers accountable for possibly harbouring those fantasies.

It’s an awesome action movie too

The satire only enhances what is already an awesome action movie. The target they call Snowball (Betty Gilpin) keeps evading traps and fighting back. As she meets more and more characters, anything could be part of the game, or it could be real. The Hunt is so constantly surprising, it’s hard to talk about. 

L-R: Hilary Swank vs. Betty Gilpin | Universal Pictures

Gilpin is a compelling lead. She plays Snowball as neither the action hero nor the final girl. You can see her wheels spinning as she plots her next move, but when she does, it’s thrilling. Director Craig Zobel keeps the action clear. Action sequences are actually rather elegant, but accentuated with absurd gore. 

The premise of The Hunt is fraught with sensitive subjects so it’s understandable that reactions to the trailer alone could turn people off. That’s the point of satire though. It’s supposed to be provocative. Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal would’ve turned people off if there were cameras and Twitter too. Once you see The Hunt, you’ll see it’s so outrageous it can only be satire.