Last summer, the horror-comedy-thriller The Hunt was postponed after Internet denizens objected to the unseen film's violence and premise in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. Universal has now allowed director Craig Zobel's film to see the light of day and the result is a mixed bag.
Shot in New Orleans, The Hunt tells the story of 12 strangers who find themselves abducted and dumped in a field. Soon, it's clear they are being picked off one by one. Part of the film's controversy stemmed from the fact that the hunters are rich liberals and the hunted are referred to as "deplorables." If any readers are concerned about the film being right-wing propaganda, it's not. While the hunters are indeed loathsome and self-absorbed, the hunted people are not portrayed as sympathetic with the exception of the main character. It's more misanthropic than right wing or left wing. It's more a metaphor about the ugliness of online culture and the desire of the loudest people of all political stripes to see their enemies destroyed.
The film's strongest asset is its lead, Betty Gilpin (Netflix's G.L.O.W.). Her performance as a laconic, acerbic Mississippi army vet would do Clint Eastwood proud. There are also some darkly funny moments in the screenplay by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. It also has the sense to clock in at a speedy 89 minutes.
However, the script is uneven (for every funny moment, there's one that's too on-the-nose) and concludes with a fight scene that goes on too long and adds nothing to the satire. If you think about the plotting for longer than five seconds, it falls apart. The relentless, extreme gore wears thin, too.