Director: Craig Zobel
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts
Released: 11th March 2020 (UK)
Turbulent political climate be damned: Craig Zobel’s much-maligned The Hunt is finally getting a fairly quiet, fanfare-less theatrical release this weekend. A film deemed “too partisan for its own good”, this fresh riff on “The Most Dangerous Game” is an ultra-violent throwback to exploitation cinema that seems designed for the pure sake of cheap provocation — and that isn’t such a brazen act, after all.
It’s all a fairly straightforward affair: a group of sedated Southern conservatives is dropped in a big, wide open area somewhere in Croatia and hunted by (mostly white) liberal elites for sport. In retrospect, it is actually somewhat hilarious that a film with such a clearly faux-provocative premise could end up being mentioned by the current President of the U.S., but really not anything surprising: the film takes aim at both sides of political extremes, satirising Red and Blue stereotypes in equal measure. It’s a celebration of bad taste that doesn’t hide its lack of political alignment, covering the screen with glorious slaughter of over-exaggerated characters that are written as cardboard cutouts from political message boards.
The utter ridiculousness of gratuitous violence gives The Hunt a silly edge that keeps it closer to the latest Puppet Master movie than its Blumhouse partner The Purge, amplifying an already schlocky film to absolute extremes. Fortunately, the entire cast is very much in on the joke, embracing the film’s inconsequential provocation as a badge of honour. Betty Gilpin — with her thick Southern accent and a tendency to blow out brains — is a riotous stand-out of the film, subverting the final girl trope with a fine touch of sardonic humour.
However, it’s the sheer provocative nature of The Hunt that rings hollow, especially given the media turmoil it caused last year. It’s a fun piece of nasty entertainment that doesn’t have much to say for its politically-charged premise, even when the “both sides are terrible” motif is heard loud and clear. Zobel, Cuse and Lindelof take up the mantles of cinematic trolls, critiquing extreme cases from both sides of the political spectrum and utilising the concept as a mere gateway to, once again, joke about The Florida Man (whose name in the film is, naturally, Vanilla Nice).
As far as modern exploitation flicks go, The Hunt ranks pretty high up as an uproarious, blood-soaked gorefest that simply doesn’t care what you think of it. A schlocky B-movie at heart, it’s a gross 90-minute romp that is more concerned with the amount of gore it can throw than its overt political satire. Moulding a replica of modern day America out of caricatures may be a reductive statement in today’s sociopolitical climate — but it is, indeed, a bloody fun one.
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