The Hunt review – shocking satire ultimately misses the mark

Following a series of mass shootings in the United States last year, The Hunt‘s release was delayed in an abundance of precaution from the relevant PR teams. Of course, that didn’t stop people speaking on and denouncing the film without having seen it (as is always the way); this led to the film later being marketed as “The most talked about film that nobody has actually seen”. It’s ironic then, that it has now been released amidst a pandemic where few are likely to go see whether it deserved the internet rage it incited.

© 2020 Universal Pictures

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, how they got there or why they’re there. This seemingly random group of people has been selected to be part of The Hunt… Cue the gun shots.

The notion of humans hunting humans for sport is nothing new. Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game has inspired films such as Hard Target, The Running Man… and the real-life Zodiac Killer. Even the YA market got in on the action with the hugely successful novels and film franchise, The Hunger Games. Most recently, the similarly themed Brazilian horror Bacurau was also released this week.

For a film called The Hunt, there features a disappointing lack of hunting. In an attempt to bring certain characters front and centre as the audience’s conduit to the action, the herd is thinned out much too quickly. You might not want to get too attached to those familiar faces you see in the trailer, that’s all we’re saying.

The real hunting is done by the audience, as they struggle to find anything remotely close to characterisation – at least beyond one-word stereotypes like liberal, redneck, snowflake, etc. Even de facto lead Betty Gilpin’s Crystal has her backstory and character explained away in a single facial expression, albeit one that is hilarious and perfectly delivered. In a film where nearly every character is thoroughly unpleasant, it can be difficult to find someone to empathise with. It’s Gilpin’s terrific performance which wins her the audience’s hearts, as they will her to survive this most dangerous game no matter their political stance. Speaking of which…

© 2020 Universal Pictures

In an exceedingly rare example of bi-partisanship, Republicans and Democrats proved equally furious at the film’s narrative (at least prior to release, when The Hunt was actually being talked about). The political divide between red and blue states, issues around gun laws and political correctness, internet conspiracy theories, people being cancelled by Twitter over innocuous online comments: The Hunt has them all in its sights. There is definitely a cutting satire to be made here, given the material, yet the film ends up taking potshots at so many subjects (literal and metaphorical) that it just ends up missing its targets.

Rather than an impressive trophy kill, the end result is a disappointing flesh wound for The Hunt.

The Hunt is in cinemas now.