The Hunt – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by : Craig Zobel
Starring: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, Amy Madigan, Ethan Suplee, Macon Blair, J. C. MacKenzie, Wayne Duvall, Reed Birney, Teri Wyble, Sturgill Simpson
In cinemas March 11th
This film arrives in cinemas mired in controversy. Originally scheduled for release in September last year it was shunted around somewhat before the studio settled on releasing it now. A quick Twitter search will show that it has stimulated some strong opinions, despite the fact that most of those offering commentary haven’t seen it. So when I attended a screening and was told there was an embargo until the day of release I feared the worst as this usually means they are expecting negative reviews. Therefore I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this.
The basic premise is that a group of strangers wake in a field with no idea how they got there. They are gagged and lost and suddenly find themselves being shot at. Zobbel takes inspiration from Scream by killing off a big star in the first few minutes which really serves to get the audience’s attention (although no spoilers as to whom). As their numbers dwindle it becomes apparent that they are part of a hunt that has been rumoured online known as “Manorgate”, where wealthy elite use people they call “deplorables” as game. Unfortunately for the elite group one of their targeted victims, Crystal (Gilpin), isn’t what they expect and starts fighting back!
Much of the criticism directed at this (again, mainly by people who haven’t seen it) has been due to the political undertones, and yes they are rather in your face. The hunters consider themselves woke, liberal elitists and the implication is that those they are hunting are supporters of a certain political leader. However, politics aside this is a good old fashioned gorefest. Forget 50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy – this is 50 ways to kill your “deplorables”. Within the first few minutes, there is a gruesome killing and the methods of murder just get more imaginative as the body count rises.
Gilpin finally gets to put her Glow training to good use on the big screen (she plays a female wrestler in the popular TV show). She kicks more ass here than Linda Hamilton in Terminator. She is a hugely underrated actress and if you are familiar with her work her transformation here is extraordinary. Even in the midst of some cringe-worthy dialogue (hey it’s a horror – not Shakespeare) she manages to bring gravitas. Despite all the big names in the cast she completely carries this movie. She has one especially impressive fight scene near the end of the movie that will have you cringing at the sheer vindictive violence while also laughing out loud at certain elements (I’ve never seen a grilled cheese and vintage champagne take centre stage in an action scene).
To be honest this movies biggest flaw is that it thinks it is cleverer than it is. It often over explains certain things and has made some characters complete parodies to reinforce their motives. It is heavy-handed on the political undertones but they are definitely open to interpretation and not as clear cut as the aforementioned internet commentators seem to think.
I found this good, silly, gruesome fun. It is ridiculously over the top like all the most fun horror films are. You will recoil at some of the violence but equally crack a rib laughing at some of the more creative deaths. Perhaps, not being American, I am watching it through a different lens and without a political agenda, but as a fan of horror and slasher films, I enjoyed this. It is not for those with a weak stomach or a nervous disposition but if you like some good old fashioned gore with a lot of laughs thrown in then you’ll like this.