by Hope Madden
About a year ago, Universal Studios pulled the release of The Hunt because of the amount of gun violence. Commendable.
Later that year, other studios released Ready or Not—critical darling, but didn’t do great box office. Then Knives Out, which was both a critical darling and box office giant. And, of course, Parasite would go on to win all the Oscars. Even documentary short.
While The Hunt does contain a goodly amount of violence—guns, knives, hand grenades, pens, stilettos, kitchen appliances—it also boasts the one thing that appears to be the universal key to entertainment. It hates rich people.
Director Craig Zobel (Compliance), along with writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof (both of TV’s Watchmen and The Leftovers), takes no prisoners as characters take a bunch of prisoners, drop them in a field somewhere and, you know, hunt them down for sport. The film gleefully skewers both the left and the right, often in ways you wouldn’t expect but should.
This is a meticulously structured horror film, the tidy beats allowing the writers to insert surprises that play on your preconceived notions in clever ways. Like Jordan Peele, Zobel proves a nimble manipulator of both horror tropes and social commentary.
I have to think Betty Gilpin was the most disappointed when this film was shelved last year because it is her break out. No more support work as the hot mean chick, Gilpin’s Crystal is the wrong badass to underestimate. The performance is never showy but quirky and genuine, which goes a long way toward increasing believability.
Zobel populates the herd with familiar faces (Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Hilary Swank, Amy Madigan), mainly for sleight of hand. Though most get little screen time, and each is handed a fairly one-dimensional character, both the writing and the performances mine that gimmick for a lot.
Positioned to infuriate everyone in one scene or another, the film is brash and bracingly level headed. It’s violent AF, no doubt, but what it reflects back at us is far smarter than what you might expect. The Hunt is a darkly comedic, socially savvy, equal opportunity skewering and it is a blast.