There was a lot of controversy surrounding this film. Something about Trump condemning it last year without seeing it. Personally, I went into this film completely blind to any commentary/spoilers/chatter and I can’t say if that made the film better or worse… because it’s just not a good film. It’s not even a particularly “fun” film. I love good horror and especially one that errs on the side of dark humor and social satire. This is not Get Out, The Cabin in the Woods, or even Red State. Which is a damn shame because the creative pedigree this film has really should make it something special, but it disappoints in almost every way. It’s directed by Craig Zobel, the writer/director of the fantastic, tense film Compliance and co-written by TV phenom Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse (son of Lindelof’s “Lost” comrade Carlton Cuse). The Hunt lacks any of the nuance, suspense, and clever writing of either of the three men’s previous work. It also wastes the talent of most of their bold face named cast (but more on that to come).
Without being too spoilery, for those willing to risk coronavirus exposure to see it in the theatres, the story is about conservatives who are being hunted for sport by rich liberals in a activity dubbed “Manorgate.” There’s a little bit of a nod to “Pizzagate” and to the Sony e-mail leak and to cancel culture, but mostly the story is a heavy-handed attempt to say that liberals and conservatives can be equally stereotypical, vapid, heinous. The dialogue and jokes are so painfully obvious and hamfisted that it’s hard not to roll one’s eyes. You’d find better political humor on any Twitter timeline. The only joke which got more than a tired smirk or “huh” out of me was one involving a liberal who couldn’t find his hand sanitizer before going to pee on a tree and his friend’s giving him grief about it. The joke, which the writers could not have remotely predicted the cultural landscape the film would be released into, is unintentionally more clever than intended. Otherwise this film lacks any cultural insight that doesn’t feel eye-rolling, preachy, or like a tiresome retread.
Most of the actors audiences you would be excited to see are like Ike Barinholz, Emma Roberts, and Justin Hartley get killed off quickly, with little to no fanfare. That is a big problem with the film, even if it’s less a horror focused film and more of an action piece or satire, there is zero tension. People get killed very fast without much time to care about them or feel any level of suspense. The only actors who get any real acting meat to chew on and make the most of it (and truthfully make this film remotely watchable) are Betty Gilpin (as Crystal, a car rental employee from Mississippi) and Hillary Swank (as Athena, a liberal, disgraced CEO). They get to have some fun banter and a fight scene which captures a small fraction of the excitement and humor of a Kill Bill moment. Both actresses are formidable and all audience eyes will certainly be on them whenever they’re on scene. They make the most of what they’re given, but will leave audiences wanting more from both of them. Perhaps put them in a Jordan Peele film instead.