Before it was even released, The Hunt had marketed itself as ‘the most talked about movie of the year’. That was certainly enough to hype the film up, with many anticipating some controversy from it. Those who wanted said controversy won’t be disappointed because The Hunt is an incredibly bold, brave film. It doesn’t hold back on the violence, gore, and the messages it wants to convey.
The premise is a simple one. Twelve complete strangers wake up in a clearing, with no idea why or how they got there. They soon realise that they’re part of a very deadly purpose called ‘The Hunt’. Betty Gilpin shines in the lead role as ‘Hunt’ target Crystal, who wants to get to the bottom of why she was kidnapped and forced into this twisted scenario. Her performance as this badass, no-nonsense and incredibly smart ‘victim’ is a joy to watch.
Other ‘victims’ include Emma Roberts as a character known as ‘Yoga Pants’, Ethan Suplee as the affectionately named ‘Shut the F*** Up Gary’, and a few other unnamed characters who felt disposable. But that was the whole point. It’s also a complete gore-fest, especially when it comes to the first scene. Without spoiling anything, it presents us with a sequence that’s full of surprises. When the ‘The Hunt’ begins, you think you know what’s coming and then are completely proven wrong.
And the surprises don’t stop there either, as it goes off down a path I certainly didn’t expect it to take. It’s natural to have some expectations in mind, but this film didn’t meet any of them as it hurtles towards its conclusion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it challenges the audience with shocks and dark humour. But at times it felt like the film was trying to be more intelligent than it actually is, with writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof criticising contemporary politics.
The Hunt soon turns political, using the narrative to mock both sides of the spectrum with buzzwords we’re all too familiar with, as well as the ‘keyboard warrior’ culture. Whilst I admire its attempts to criticise, it didn’t really add anything noteworthy to the conversation. But perhaps it wasn’t trying to. The concept of this film is frankly bizarre, but it’s self-aware enough to embrace its ridiculousness and conveniently skirt over any potential plot holes that may have been discovered by its audience.
At times it felt quite confused too. For a political satire I was expecting it to go a bit further, but instead, it throws in a few vaguely offensive jokes and goes down a blood-soaked action path for several minutes instead.
Eventually, we find out why our ‘villain’ character Athena (Hilary Swank) put together The Hunt in the first place. Whilst impressed by the concept, I would have liked to see a little more context and planning, but perhaps that’s just me. Some viewers might quite enjoy the ambiguity of The Hunt and what it stands for, but I was disappointed that the dramatic third act seemed to fall flat and end quickly.
Craig Zobel knows how to direct a thoroughly entertaining action scene, and that helped the film to redeem itself. When there’s a chase, or a fight, it’s easy to stay engrossed and enjoy some great action pieces throughout.
If you want entertainment, The Hunt will definitely give you that. With its ridiculous, over the top characters and special effects to make you squirm, it’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half of your time.
However, if you want an intelligent political satire you probably won’t find it here. It raises a few good points and highlights hypocrisy, but it’s not really a big statement on the times we live in.
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Written by: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee