There’s a certain kind of brilliance with how the marketing department fully leaned into the negative press “The Hunt” received before anyone had even seen it. Based on the early trailers alone but left and right-wing fanatics lost their mind and denounced the film. Now, these quotes proudly appear on the movie poster along with a pig whose name we learn is “Orwell.” For those who immediately catch that reference, this movie is for you!
When I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked entertaining but at first assumed it was going to be another modernized retelling of the 1924 short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” In it, a wealthy big-game hunter uses a small island to hunt other men, as everything else has become boring to him. A quick look at the creative team on this project is the first clue that “The Hunt” would likely be more than a Red State vs. Blue State version of this classic tale. Co-Writer Damon Lindelof is the name that jumps out first. While not everything he does is of the same caliber (ahem, “World War Z”), his resume is prolific with brilliant stories that offer a unique perception of the world such as “Lost”, “The Leftovers”, and the HBO series “Watchmen.” Sharing co-writing duties is Nick Cuse. Although he may not have as many credits to his name yet, his previous three projects were also “Watchmen”, “The Leftovers” and the phenomenal Netflix series “Maniac.” Bringing it all together is a director primarily known for shorts and TV series, Craig Zobel. These three men are obviously kindred spirits as Zobel‘s resume includes episodes of “American Gods”, “The Leftovers”, and “Westworld.”
With these guys involved, and all the weird media “outrage” around this movie they hadn’t seen, what should one expect? For starters, this is a dark satire, through and through. No one is safe, neither in a corporeal sense or from lampoonery. The violence, often quick and visceral, borders on cartoonish and is used more to punctuate humor than to shock or disturb. And while the plot is at its essence quite basic, it takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way, each time peeling back another layer of the story.
A large part of the fun with this movie is wondering who each character is and how they relate to one another. (if they do at all) To reveal any here would be a disservice. Needless to say, each actor is obviously having a blast, doing their best to chew the scenery given their particular caricature. Betty Gilpin is particularly awesome. She proudly wears a scowl throughout the movie that is likely the result of too many men telling her to “Smile More.” Gilpin is also given a chance to expand on her intimidating physicality that we’ve seen during a few episodes of “GLOW.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pop up in a future “John Wick” project.
Many of the caricatures mentioned above border on stereotypes, but this isn’t something that’s lost on the filmmakers. In fact, these stereotypes are part of what drives the motivations behind the stereotypical propagators of The Manor Hunt. The higher the body count gets, the more the film mocks the contempt and prejudices each character has for the others until we find ourselves in a Möbius strip of satire. It’s a lot of fun.
The Hunt (2020)