Review: 'The Hunt' - A Gory Film About the Danger of Misinformation
by Zofia Wijaszka
March 11, 2020
Just last week, I coincidentally chose to rewatch Zodiac – David Fincher's thriller from 2007. The film about the unidentified serial killer, based on the book by Robert Graysmith, is about the search for the legendary murderer. Throughout the film, there is often a mention of The Most Dangerous Game – a 1924 short story written by Richard Connell. The infamous "Zodiac Killer" was supposedly inspired by it. The story's original plot is about a big-game hunter who is hunted [sic!] by a Russian aristocrat. It has been remade into many other film and TV projects over the years. Now The Most Dangerous Game gets another contemporary update – The Hunt, which addresses a modern society that thrives on dividing and misinforming people.
Inspired by the classic short story, The Hunt is full of provocative language, violence, gore, and madness. Directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance, Z for Zachariah), the plot follows the group of "deplorables" who wake up in the middle of the field. Disoriented and gagged, they soon realized that they are prey. A group of "godless elite" led by Athena (Hilary Swank) are hunting them. Knives, shotguns, even explosives and also arrows, are put to use. Guts are seen flying all over, limbs are torn apart, and blood splatters – there is no mercy. Victims drop like flies, one by one, but one of them stands out from the crowd. Crystal (Glow's Betty Gilpin) succeeds in escaping from the grisly massacre and fights back. In her anger, she goes after the brain of the operation, Athena. Somewhere in the middle of the film, the viewers discover the roots of the hunt. All of the chaos and mayhem started with a text message that was meant to be a joke. Sound familiar?
As mentioned, it doesn't shun controversial words that, in film, define liberals and republicans. According to an interview with Time, the idea for this film initially emerged as a joke between two writers - Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse. They eventually developed it into a full-fledged film. The controversy around The Hunt began with the first trailer released last summer. In the light of the shootings in Dayton and El Paso in early August 2019, the film was first canceled, then later moved to a new release date in early 2020. In early reactions to the trailer, social media erupted in anger, and even Fox News boycotted it, claiming the film would "inflame and cause chaos." In the aftermath, the creators were surprised and, quite frankly, confused. There was then a bizarre paradox in which a film that deals with the prevalence of misinformation became a victim of misinformation. Let's remember that all of this was before the movie even opened in theaters.
There is a reason I'm trying to remind everyone about it. The controversy surrounding The Hunt proved the point of Zobel's thriller. Prejudice at its highest level resulted because the film is not what it appears to be. I do admit, I raised my eyebrows at some lines, but the film has a bigger picture that goes beyond what's said or not said. It's not about the left or right, liberals or republicans. It's about the misinformation that rules this world, especially in mass media. The plot starts with the misinformation and finishes with it. The story comes full circle and gives a middle finger to the toxic culture of bias and people who go straight to the ultimate maxim, without facts or source checking. The filmmakers present this issue in a profoundly provocative way. The reason: to shake people up. What are their reactions going to be? Will they notice the point? Or just prove the point? That's what I'm curious about because the film equally skewers both sides.
Betty Gilpin does such a fantastic job in The Hunt. We don't know a lot about her character (and there is a reason for that). She doesn't speak a lot, but when she does, she will surprise you. She knows how much the cigarettes cost depending on the State and loves the story of the jack rabbit and the turtle. What astounds viewers is her "I'm done" constant look and general "whatever" attitude. Crystal is not startled or shocked by her current situation. She is calm and collected. This woman knows how to fight exceptionally well. Which is contrasted by her facial expressions of boredom that are so good they will make the audience laugh. Throughout the film, Crystal is an enigma. By the time the second half of The Hunt is on the horizon, the story presents the most vital question that current society naturally cannot live without: what side is Crystal on? Is she genuinely a so-called "inbred redneck"? Or is she a "liberal snowflake"?
That's where Zobel, Lindelof, and Cuse get you. An answer to the question is not essential when it comes to Crystal, as it shouldn't be. Her character is the point of the film. While many are at each other's throats and calling people names, she proceeds to fight her way up and take on the final battle herself. Hilary Swank is excellent as well, portraying Crystal's fiercest opponent. Both women fight for their lives. When their battle nears its end, something major is finally revealed. It nicely sums up the point of The Hunt, and captures the essence of contemporary society and how people too often go to the extreme, on both sides.
The screenplay is certainly controversial, but smart. I do wish the film was a little longer. Still, it makes a great point: misinformation is a massive threat, especially in era of Twitter and social media saturation in general. The most anticipated aftermath is the reactions people will have once they see the film. Some will be upset – there is no doubt about it. But the director purposefully makes fun of extremely biased people. He doesn't pick a side, but he shows the ugly reality – no matter what "side" you're on, there are horrible people in this world who will use you. Now it depends on the audience. Are they going to prove the point of The Hunt just like social media did before it was even released? We shall see.
Zofia's Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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