By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – March 11, 2020)
For the first time maybe ever, I’m not going to even bother spending time reviewing the acting or direction or sound work of a movie I’m writing about. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, because the reality is, there’s nothing to talk about there in terms of whether you should see this or not.
If it’s “just a movie,” as the defense goes, then why was it made? If it’s trying to make a statement, that statement is clumsy, although I did take a lesson from it that I want to discuss. I have no clue whether it was intentional, but The Hunt, as gruesome, sad, and “deplorable” as it is, boils down to a sobering, but fumbling allegory of our times.
In The Hunt, uber-wealthy liberal elites, the ones conservatives are supposed to despise, engage in a “Manor Game” where they abduct open Trump supporters or far right individuals to hunt them for sport. Yes, that’s the premise. That led to the whole world losing its collective mind about how disgusting it is to portray people murdering conservatives, despite the fact that without question, the real villains and the ones being mocked the most are the liberals doing the hunting, not those being hunted.
Still, why does this movie exist? No clue, but luckily if there’s a silver lining to be found in COVID-19, it’s that people won’t be going to movie theaters this weekend and thus, this will bomb. However, the lesson I mentioned above is a good one, one that should be heeded by all sides. What I watched for 90 painful minutes was the end game of the social media generation, most especially Twitter.
As I observed the events of the movie, I thought, “This is what would happen if Twitter were real life.” The egg avatars and the bots and the far left lunatics and the alt-right trolls. It’s the extremes of society, taught and reinforced through the cesspool of the Internet to despite the other side, literally killing one another because there’s no value in human beings that disagree. The liberals, who sit around and argue about the degree of political correctness and wokeness each holds, criticizing things like sugary soda and gender and religion, but in an intentionally over the top, preposterous way.
This is what occurs on Twitter continuously. It’s the woke police vs. the bigots, with the problem lying in the fact that both groups attempt to claim they’re the mainstream, when they’re absolutely not. The vast majority of the public isn’t on social media and even less would associate with either side. While there may not be any money to be found in living in the middle, that’s where most of us find ourselves, perhaps leaning to one worldview or another. But, when you’re inundated with rationale that leads you to despise dissenting opinions and those who hold them, the LAST byproduct is eliminating the debate.
The Hunt is largely stupid, taken too far, perhaps to make a point, but if Black Mirror is the right way to go about this style of polemic, The Hunt is the simplistic, masochistic way. It’s violent, it’s gross, both sides are as surface-level as it gets, and the heroine of the story may or may not have been mischaracterized and misidentified. You root for her because Betty Gilpin is awesome, not because the character she plays is particularly redeeming. That said, she’s the only person you meet during the movie that you can tolerate for more than a few seconds.
I saw Surviving the Game in a movie theater in 1994 and thought this might be a remake, but the political side of this version makes it markedly different. I also saw The Running Man, and in fact I enjoyed both the older pictures, but The Hunt is attempting either to just be salacious or to be preachy, but is so overwrought and rinky dink for much of its runtime that it fails to adequately capture either. You can impale people or jam things in their necks and spurt blood all you want, but if it’s cool with you, I’ll stick with John Wick for my stylized violence. There’s no style here.
The message I took from it may well have come from my own brain, which has increasingly turned against social media and the misinformation and vitriol it causes with its more negative effects. This story was written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, of whom the former is one of my all-time favorites. This is the guy who, along with Nick’s father, created Lost, and Damon adapted The Leftovers and Watchmen, just to name a few. It was produced by Jason Blum, who although he’s been a part of some terrible horror stuff, he’s also done some great horror stuff, and also produced Get Out, of which The Hunt does give off a similar vibe in the far far background.
That makes me think the message was indeed intentional, but if that’s true, why not admit to that and make it a point of every interview? “Hey guys, there’s a reason we wrote this movie. It’s not just mindless and it’s not anti-Trump. It’s just about why we need to look for unity and not division, and that there’s a life beyond our devices and accounts.” The movie’s entire draw is that the media is wrong about it and commenting before they’ve seen it. It is not there to sow division, but that’s one of the critiques. That’s entirely false. The message seems clear, but the problem is, what you have to watch in order to get that message isn’t worth putting into your mind.
If you had to say which side it favored, it would be the right, but the victims are people talking about “deep state” and crisis actors and all the stuff Alex Jones trades in, not the stuff fair minded conservatives or moderates would. It’s ALL the loudmouth crap that turns your stomach online, from both sides. You root for no one outside of Gilpin’s character, and some, including Emma Roberts, barely even have screen time before they disappear. There’s nothing to sink your teeth into except just to see what happens to Athena, the big baddie behind it all, played by Hilary Swank, once it’s time for the final showdown.
This is not the worst movie of all time, but because it tries to say it’s just a movie while clearly offering up a lesson, I actually told the production company representative it was a thumbs in the middle. I have no idea. I don’t think it’s something I want anyone I know to see, but the message is worth us all hearing. Thus, hopefully we can use it as a jump off point for a better discussion, but not actually go in droves to the theater to see it. I saw it so you don’t have to. But liberals are REALLY going to despise it, more so than their political opponents, because they’re made out to be both evil and dumb, whereas conservatives are just made out to be dumb.
Or, should I say, the Twitter libs and cons are. That’s The Hunt. Stay home and watch Knives Out or Ford vs. Ferrari again (or for the first time) instead. Both are A+. I’m torn here, only because I do think the social media warning I took from it is relevant and important. It’s interesting, but seemingly for all the wrong reasons. The run-time flies by, but that’s still not a reason to recommend it. The content is just…well, at least for me, more than I want. I really am torn. There is merit here because of the message. Ugh.
It would be a talking point, but nobody is going to see it. Unlike some films that have pushed their openings, this one looks like it’s coming out tomorrow, and it’s not going to attract an audience. If you’re risking getting sick or spreading an illness, it had better be for appointment entertainment. That’s not what this is.