The new horror-thriller THE HUNT begins with a private group text that spirals out of control into absurdist hyperbole. Hinting at the murder of “deplorables” a clatch of left-wing elitists cackle about their plan and we get a pretty good idea of what is to come. A perfect snapshot of the seething bitterness hiding just below the surface in today’s political climate. Then the movie begins. Trust when we say that writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof along with director Craig Zobel have produced something far more stinging than a mere retelling of “The Most Dangerous Game.” THE HUNT is a savage read of the polarization and cancel culture rampant in America today wrapped up in a tongue-in-cheek blood bath replete with catastrophic deaths and geysers of blood.
After the appropriately over-the-top cold open, 12 people wake up in a wooded area. Gagged, yet still wearing her finest winter vest jacket, a woman (Emma Roberts) makes her way to a clearing to join the other 11 victims. A crate full of weapons sits in an open field as the bait. Knowing that there is obviously something very wrong and very dangerous about to go down, the victims begin to arm themselves. That’s when the -ish hits the fan and the games begin.
One of the right-wing targets is a conspiracy theorist who had shared stories of a leftist sport-kill event on his podcast, only to fall victim to it. Another is a random bad boy from Orlando. Still another one of the abductees is simply a car rental rep from Mississippi. It’s clear they represent the right. Their random quips about “Snowflakes” and “Stand Your Ground” indicate as much. It’s also clear that the “civilized” folk after them, posh liberals calling each other out mid-conversation over inappropriate terms, represent the left or at least its most extreme portrayal.
This is a satire of the highest form and it works because of the careful telegraphing from Cuse, Lindelof, and Zobel. Violence is used gratuitously for laughs and shock value with Tarantino-esque moments of sanguine comedy and dialogue. That’s not to mention the fine performances, from actors who are very in on the joke. As the ringmaster Athena, Oscar-winner Hilary Swank seems to revel in the evil machinations she leads while folks like Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Glenn Howerton, Ethan Suplee, and Vince Pisani, pop in to offer their comic timing and gravitas. That’s not to mention the fine performances from Betty Gilpin, Wayne Duvall, and Macon Blair.
America’s current habit of name-calling and immaturity pits reasonable people against each other, expecting the absolute worst from those who disagree with them. THE HUNT takes those ideals, hands them weapons, and throws them in a cage match to the death to highlight the utter absurdity of the reactionist mentality. The idea for this movie could have gone horribly wrong. Instead, we are treated to carefully measured storytelling, razor-sharp wit, and maniacal mayhem that aims to level the playing field in hopes of getting us all to lighten up a bit. THE HUNT is fun as hell.
MOVIE RATING — 8 out of 10 ☠️