The Hunt (2020)

Originally slated for a release in September 2019, The Hunt arrives on Australian digital services following a wave of hyped press that only increased its reputation.  Following a mass shooting in the US, The Hunt was ripped from its theatre spot, with outlets blasting the film for its premise – rich liberals hunting working-class conservatives for sport – and dubbing it “extremely dangerous for the country”; the irony is not lost that this statement came from President Trump.

Whilst the delayed release was unfortunate from a production point-of-view, it was the type of publicity that only played further into the film’s supposed reputation; it’s unceremonious theatrical treatment now is more a case of bad timing (obviously).  Now that The Hunt is out for the masses to see (if they bother), it’s quite amusing to note that this variation on “The Most Dangerous Game” is hardly the politically-biased horror film it was dubbed.  Instead, it’s skewering both sides of the political divide – and all with a healthy, and occasionally bloody, sense of humour.

Whilst the political digs the Nick Cuse/Damon Lindelof-penned script take throughout The Hunt‘s 89 minute running time are perhaps a tad too obvious and heavy-handed, and the offence level of the satirical value is akin to a Saturday Night Live sketch, where it truly excels is in its action temperament.  Treating its nasty-minded set-up as if The Hunger Games had the stones to execute Katniss Everdeen before she even had the chance to introduce herself, the film’s opening 10 minutes certainly don’t play traditional rules pertaining to a familiar-faced actor equals immunity, and as frustrating as this ploy could be construed (a host of names are barely given the opportunity to flesh their personalities out), it helps the film appear more risky than it ultimately is.

The other ace The Hunt has up its sleeve is Betty Gilpin.  Her character, Crystal, appears to be the most apolitical of the group, as well as the one with the most advanced survival skills, and it’s in the unorthodox treatment of her character – you often question her sanity – that the film consistently keeps running.  Gilpin’s energy and cool, collected manner often provide the narrative with a series of violent jolts whenever the plot feels like it’s losing sight of itself; her sarcasm and blunt delivery proving a constant reminder that the film never had the intention of being the political bully the media wished to paint it as.

Those hoping The Hunt will live up to its reputation may be sadly disappointed, as it neither leans into the horror or intelligence the premise could have utilised.  Instead, director Craig Zobel (Compliance, Z For Zachariah) embraces the comedy, and if viewed as such, audiences are likely to connect it with more so.

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