While other movies are seeing their releases postponed thanks to coronavirus, the controversial horror-comedy The Hunt—which was already postponed from its September release date—is still opening tonight. Whether or not you venture out to a theater to see it, it's worth seeing: Pulpy and bloody, it's a B-movie with smarts.
More than anything else, The Hunt plays out like a long, gore-happy episode of The Twilight Zone. The premise—initially, at least—is simple: In a riff on the 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game," rich, urban "elites" round up a dozen rural "deplorables," set them loose on the grounds of a woodsy, sprawling estate, and hunt them down for sport. But a clever twist or two later, The Hunt, written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof—the latter coming off his success with HBO's extraordinary Watchmen—ends up offering a bit more than dark humor and skull-crunching violence.
Not a lot more, mind you—just as The Hunt was blasted, sight unseen, by conservatives last fall, it's also in danger of being overhyped. But The Hunt does have something smart to say, and it's all the more impressive that it gets its point across despite—or, actually, because of—all the limbs and bullets that're flying all over the place.
Saying much more about the seemingly outrageous premise is to give too much away; suffice it to say that GLOW's Betty Gilpin, as one of the hunted, is nothing short of phenomenal, and Hilary Swank, as one of the hunters (she introduces one of her high heels to an eyeball) is clearly having a blast. Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, and Sturgill Simpson are also along for the ride (the latter playing a Floridian named Vanilla Nice), but this is Gilpin's movie, and she nails every scene, whether it calls for laugh-and-or-cringe-out-loud crowd-pleasing moments or sequences of unexpected subtlety.
Like The Cabin in the Woods, The Hunt is willing to mess with viewer expectations, and like Ready or Not, it's also willing to mine America's fundamental divisions. It's also happy to put just about everyone in the crosshairs, poking fun at well-meaning but oblivious NPR-listening retirees as readily as podcasters who rant about "the globalist cucks who run the deep state." I'm not sure The Hunt is as good as either of those two movies, but it is fun and surprising—and to its credit, it's ultimately less interested in America's cultural and political polarities as it is in how those divisions play off each other.
But yeah. Also very interested in the skull-crunching.
The Hunt opens Thurs March 12 at various theaters.