Causing all sorts of controversy last fall – when Universal made the call to not release The Hunt theatrically – due to some mass shootings that had occurred at the time if I remember correctly. Interest in the film remained elevated when the President and other Republican talking heads made some noise because they felt it shined an ugly light on the politically charged climate so – when the decision was finally made to unleash it on the movie-going public, you would have thought the theaters would have been packed but – along came COVID 19 – cutting its theatrical run short and forcing it to VOD and now ultimately – home video.
The premise of The Hunt is not that original – a group of folks awakens to find themselves in a strange place – in this case, in a wooded field – gagged and confused they make their way through a literal minefield of issues and quickly find out that they have become players in a very deadly game of cat and mouse and as you have likely already figured out – they are the mouse. Right off the bat, we meet a wide array of characters – no real backstories on them as they are dispensed with very quickly – and rather imaginatively I might add. They are not afraid to splash the blood around – and body parts end up scattered around very liberally.
Like the characters – we spend the whole first part of the film confused as to what is going on – some loose references are made to the event “Manor-gate” but – we don’t know enough at the moment to put too much together but it sure is fun watching our first wave of victims navigate the situation – and fail horribly. It is about at the 20-minute mark that we meet our first main character – Crystal – a no-nonsense, hard-ass, well trained ex-military woman who has a line on what is going on – her first interaction – at what at the time we believe to be a Mom and Pop store in Arkansas – is our first real glance into the actual plot of the film. Betty Gilpen is pretty damn amazing as Crystal – and it is through her character’s eyes in which we will now navigate the film.
It’s not till the half way point of the film that we are officially introduced to our other main character – Athena – played by the always amazing Hilary Swank. We actually are introduced to her character in the cold open of the film but – no face is put to the character until this point.
Once we have all our main players in place – and it does take a while – the real meat of the plot gets spinning. There are some pretty amazing kills in the ongoing fight for survival as Crystal continues to put all the pieces together – and the final fight between our two female leads is well – it’s pretty damn spectacular. There are a lot of twists, turns, and surprises on our way to that finale but – I don’t want to ruin the view for you because this one is much more fun if you figure out the logistics along with Crystal.
The film does at times purposely push political buttons – using words like “deplorable’s” and “snowflake” that our current political climate has made popular – and it does seem at times that the film is going out of its way to just piss off the ultra-conservative right – but it also tries to establish an ongoing point of overreacting to information before you know what that information means – if it succeeds at doing that I will leave up to you to decide.
When you look at this film solely for its entertainment value – as a horror film – The Hunt works really well. A good mix of horror and humor – action and drama. The only time it flounders around for a while is when it attempts to stand on its soapbox and deliver a political tone but – fortunately, they don’t make that the centerpiece of the film – it’s there, don’t get me wrong but – they don’t rely solely on it and if we are being honest – it’s not needed at all.
Great performances by Betty Gilpen and Hilary Swank anchor this film solidly and some really fun appearances by Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, and Amy Madigan really add to the fun.
As far as the Blu-ray presentation – as you would imagine – the film looks great. I like Universal Blu-rays a lot. I have found them to always maintain a standard of quality that I can count on. Special features are pretty light but – they are a quick, entertaining watch. No harm, no foul.
At the end of the day – I have to admit that I really liked The Hunt – although I find all the controversy to pretty much be unnecessary. It seems they just inserted a couple of trigger words and attempted to politicize something that doesn’t require it. For me – it didn’t detract from the film – but it certainly didn’t add anything.
Still though – I recommend The Hunt – when you take away all the made-up drama for PR purposes – it’s a solid watch with some great acting, amazing stunt and effects work – and a fun twist that just puts the right amount of icing on the cake.