The Hunt is painfully unfunny, and that's the least of its problems. This is political satire at its absolute laziest: utterly reliant on played out stereotypes, totally irrelevant to real current events, seemingly unaware of any actual conversations taking place in the cultural zeitgeist anywhere besides the realm of Facebook memes, and painstakingly, grimly determined to skewer "both sides" equally--which is bad enough--and failing to even reach that low bar. The movie is completely dreadful.
The film opens with a simple scene: The camera zooms into a phone screen where the members of a group chat discuss "our ratf***er-in-chief" and make references to a mysterious Manor at which they look forward to killing some "deplorables." Cue time jump, and they're airborne, presumably traveling to said Manor, when a groggy southerner stumbles into the main cabin and they're forced to kill him before the festivities even officially begin. Blood spurts from a stab wound in his neck before he gets a stiletto heel to the eye.
Sure, the gore is fun. The Hunt definitely earns its R rating. But beyond that visceral thrill, this movie is truly just baffling. Most of its moderately star-studded cast, including Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Glenn Howerton, and others, appear in just one or two scenes total, leaving little impression before getting gruesomely killed in such inventive ways as "blown up with a grenade," "shot point-blank," and "arrows." The violence remains shocking up to the end, but not the good kind of shocking. With literally one exception, not a single character sticks around long enough to get any development whatsoever, much less a reason for audiences to care at all what happens to them. Each person is simply a meme-spawned stereotype: yoga pants, Florida man, redneck, neckbeard, and, of course, that extends to "both sides"--the "liberals" are painted as equally quarter-baked clichés.
That lone exception is Betty Gilpin, the only character in the entire film who sticks around for more than two scenes. After about half an hour just watching various somewhat recognizable actors getting killed in stupid ways, Gilpin, who viewers might recognize from Netflix's wrestling show G.L.O.W., becomes the clear designated survivor, and the rest of the movie focuses on her. Luckily, the actress is extremely charming, though not enough to salvage this movie--you'd need 100 of her to offset the rest The Hunt.
Somehow, inexplicably, The Hunt was co-written by Damon Lindelof--creator of HBO's transcendently good Watchmen series--and Nick Cuse, who worked with Lindelof on Watchmen as well as Lindelof's previous HBO series, the also fantastic The Leftovers, and who is the son of Carlton Cuse, with whom Lindelof co-created Lost. When the credits started rolling on The Hunt, it was frankly shocking to see their names on it. If you had told me The Hunt was written algorithmically by Twitter bots scraping political hashtags for image macros, I would have been interested enough to contact Twitter for comment, but not the least bit surprised.
The Hunt thinks it's skewering both sides, which would be bad enough. The "both sides" argument--as in, there were "very fine people" on both sides--discounts the real harm for which one side of this culture war is responsible. It equates people who might be sensitive about racial stereotypes or concerned about the environment to actual Nazis. "Both sides" is at best a shaky foundation on which to build a movie, and at worst, the dumbest possible way to frame something that's supposed to be political satire--as in, it's supposed to have something to say.
But The Hunt doesn't even do that right, because in the end, it does choose a side. And it shouldn't come as a surprise which side that is, since the movie is literally about one group of people drugging, kidnapping, and murdering another group of people. When one conservative "victim" accuses a group of refugees of being "crisis actors," it turns out one of them really is acting. How's that for subtlety?
A final act flashback that adds a bit of context to these events could have been the card turn moment when the movie reveals any tricks it might have had up its sleeves, but it doesn't, because there's nothing there. The Hunt really is as stupid as it can possibly be. Watch it if you're morbidly curious and you like Betty Gilpin, but otherwise, you're better off scrolling down your Twitter feed--and that's saying something.
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