Like Get Out, another Blumhouse film, The Hunt is best experienced when you go in blind. While the trailers have given away a fair deal, half the fun here is having no idea where the story is going. That’s not to say that The Hunt is on the same level as Get Out, but it does deserve to be used in the same sentence. In both films, there’s one character we sympathize with throughout while everyone else has a question mark looming over their heads. Of course, those question marks soon turn into exclamation points as everyone’s true colors shine through.
The story is taken directly out of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, but with a modern horror twist reminiscent of Saw and You’re Next. There’s even a little bit of The Hunger Games in there, as a group of mostly lower-class people is brought together to fend for their lives. For its first twenty minutes or so, though, there isn’t a clear Katniss that we’re supposed to gravitate towards. Much like the opening of Scream, the film plays with the final survivor trope on multiple occasions, adding to the unpredictability. The Hunt loses some of that wild card factor as it settles on a protagonist, but it’s hard to complain when she’s played by Betty Gilpin of Glow.
Gilpin shines as Crystal, who’s seen her fair share of combat and knows how to stay one step ahead of her hunters. As for the hunted, Crystal finds herself surrounded by sketchy conspiracy nuts who wear their Second Amendment rights like a badge of honor. It doesn’t take long for the characters to piece together that they’re being targeted by a group of wealthy left-wringers who think Ava DuVernay is the greatest thing since vegan bread. Led by the charismatic Athena (Hilary Swank), this group of snobs doesn’t just subscribe to cancel culture. They want to literally cancel anyone who doesn’t agree with their opinions.
This is where The Hunt is poised to lose some people. Many will call the film too conservative while others will say that is has a liberal bias. The screenplay by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof takes a Switzerland stance, however, observing how anyone who takes their political views to extremes is only going to cause more problems. The only character who isn’t interested in forcing her beliefs on people is Crystal. Where everyone else is trapped in their own personal bubble, she sees the playing field from every angle, which is the only way to survive the most dangerous game that is our current political climate.
Director Craig Zobel previously brought us Compliance, which also challenged its audience and its main character. He brings a wicked sense of humor to the equation, which isn’t all that surprising since Zobel was a co-created for the surreal cartoon series Homestar Runner. Come to think of it, The Hunt kind of plays out like a Strong Bad Email episode that took a violent, politically-charged turn. Couldn’t you see Strong Bad being grouped in with the hotheaded hunted while Marzipan sides with the elitist hunters? If Matt and Mike Chapman are reading this review, please take notes! For everyone else, The Hunt is a bloody good time that taps into the zeitgeist while also tapping into our lust for over-the-top mayhem.