THE HUNT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CRAIG ZOBEL / SCREENPLAY: NICK CUSE, DAMON LINDELOF / STARRING: BETTY GILPIN, HILARY SWANK, EMMA ROBERTS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The Hunt, produced by the increasingly influential Blumhouse Productions, sets out its stall from the get-go, we are introduced to a group of liberal snobs on a private jet, while a young gentleman is complaining that caviar is the only snack available on the aircraft, a deliriously heavy-set man comes bounding out from the next compartment, an older man who says he is a doctor, attempts to calm him down, by shoving a pen in his neck, blood spurting everywhere. Then to confound his suffering a stiletto is then driven into his eye, ripping it clean out! Welcome to The Hunt, a fun, bloody and not so subtle satire on American politics.
We discover that the plane is carrying the victims of the eponymous hunt, with a group of 12 people waking up in the woods, complete with fetishised mouth gags, it turns out there is no real reason for this addition, then to be a bit kinky, as all the keys to unlock them are found immediately. Unlike other films that feature - ‘victims waking up in a strange environment’, such as the cerebral micro-budgeted Cube (1997), we have already peaked behind the curtain and know who is hunting these people, but we don’t know why. The victims find a box full of weapons and a pig, yes you read that right, and then we are away. The film delights in subverting our expectations, not letting the audience settle into a groove, or the main character, no-one is safe from a hail of bullets or quiver of arrows. Eventually, we end on Crystal (Glow’s Betty Gilpin), a no-nonsense ex-soldier who works at a car rental company. In a blink and you miss her introduction, she is using her hair as a makeshift compass, foreshadowing her skills. A film like The Hunt needs a strong protagonist, somebody to root for, and Crystal is just that, she is brash, slightly disturbed but smart, a great strong female character (who would have thought Blumhouse had It in them!).
The Hunt is co-written by Damon Lindelof, and his fingerprints are all over this, from the strange unfolding mystery to the heavy-handed social commentary, the battlegrounds in America are set here for all to see, with liberal elites, looking down on conspiracy loving conservatives, mainly from the southern states, concerned with gun laws and the myth of global warming. Fake news also turns out to be the underlying cause of this whole sordid affair, take that society! Endings in such short and sharp films can be tricky and even though it's satisfactory, it isn’t handled particularly well, after some Animal Farm references (remember the pig), which fall flat, we are offered a big reveal to the woman behind the insanity, yes they managed to get an Oscar-winning actor. Still, one you likely will not have seen or thought about for a long time, and we are told she has trained for eight months for a final showdown but seems ill-prepared and happy for a level of chance to help her win, perhaps overconfidence got the better of her. You can’t blame Lindelof for trying to inject some flavour into effectively what is a hack and slash affair, just a very skillfully crafted and entertaining one.