Did I like The Hunt? A lot.
Did I like the actual experience of watching The Hunt? At times, not at all.
Would I recommend The Hunt? Depends.
Mostly on the strength of your stomach (the stronger the better), your sense of humor (the darker the better), and your opinion of American political discourse (the wearier, the better). If you meet even two out of three of those requirements, you may find much to enjoy in this horror-comedy-survival hybrid.
The premise is simple: a group of strangers wake up in a wooded area, gagged and confused. They don’t remember how they got there, but they quickly realize they’re now pawns in a twisted game called “The Hunt,” where powerful liberal elites kidnap conservatives from across America and hunt them for sport. Our Katniss here is a laconic, no-nonsense Crystal, played by Betty Gilpin (GLOW, Elementary), who does brilliantly at taking charge of the screen whenever she appears on it. She succeeds in carrying the movie’s central message and lacerating much of what political pundits stand for at the same time. The person we most want to root for isn’t the richest, flashiest, angriest, or most violent, but the quietest and the calmest. In Gilpin, we see a leader who wins not through having the best weapons or killing the most brutally, but knowing when not to shoot and the price of a pack of cigarettes in Arkansas.
However, Gilpin’s work is overshadowed by graphic violence that is so relentless and gratuitous it may undercut any point the movie tries to make. Grenades, impaling, exploding body parts, stabbing, poisoning, shooting, hit and runs, arrows – The Hunt’s victims meet their untimely ends in myriad gruesome ways, and we see each one in unsparing detail. The script keeps up with the action on screen, with hilarious one-liners that keep you engaged enough to keep watching. But if I hadn’t had someone with me to tap me when the most brutal parts were over, I might not have finished the movie.
Occasionally, the story seems overly eager to remind us that it is something deeper than buckets of blood, with characters repeatedly bringing up Orwell’s Animal Farm and a pig in a dress that isn’t satisfactorily explained (although my guess is it’s more Animal Farm). Both seem to be there to remind us that, yes, there’s another meaning underneath this. However, any movie that needs to repeatedly reference social commentary, rather than just be social commentary, may need to question why it’s doing that.
That said, I was surprised by this film’s overall reception and think it’s undeservingly underrated. Gilpin serves us a heroine I’d watch again, and the script writers made me laugh at my own ideological beliefs – not an easy feat.
This movie ultimately doesn’t have much that’s new in it, but for those who are truly weary of American discourse and think its devolved into its own kind of bloodsport, The Hunt is a genuinely entertaining and sharp critique of the times we live in, with the added bonus of a kickass heroine we can get behind.