The Hunt (2020) pits the ‘woke’ against the ‘folk’ in Blumhouse’s subtle as a brick allegory.
“The Hunt” is very, very pleased with itself. Smugger even than the entitled liberal elite which form one side of its crudely drawn social dichotomy. In attempting to say something clever about today’s bitterly divided American body politic, it merely succeeds in showing that both militant wings of America’s so-called culture war are as deplorable as each other.
When eleven strangers wake up gagged in a forest, none of them seems to know why they’re there. The mystery deepens when they find a crate conspicuously sited in the middle of a clearing, a crate filled to overflowing with weaponry of all sorts. When the shooting starts, though, the strangers quickly learn that armed or not, they are the hunted, not the hunters and that they have fallen victim to the ‘Manorgate’ conspiracy, where the wealthy hunt the poor for sport.
“The Hunt” has some fun with its casting, homaging “Scream” by using its more famous faces as cannon fodder and wrongfooting the audience’s assumptions of who the real protagonist is going to be. In truth, the film is carried on the capable shoulders of Betty Gilpin, with a performance that’s strongly reminiscent of Jodie Comer’s Villanelle as she outwits her fellow ‘contestants’ and, eventually, starts to turn the tables on her captors.
While the superficial takeaway is the obvious conservative/ liberal schism, that buries the lede which is that social media has anti-social consequences. Both sides find themselves where they are because of unwise or inflammatory posts, both public and (presumed) private, their self-reinforcing social bubbles leading them inexorably to a bloody and brutal showdown in the remote Croatian countryside.
Despite its homage to “Scream” in its opening scenes, “The Hunt” lacks that film’s sly wit and sharpness. There’s a sloppiness to the pacing and structure which keeps it from ever really gaining traction and it never really recovers from the frustration of the decision to ignore the convention of Chekov’s gun (and knives and swords and nunchucks and grenades) by showing us a bunch of fun looking weapons, most of which remain unused throughout the duration.
It’s adequate late-night action movie fare with an occasionally wry sense of humour but only if you can ignore the cloyingly cynical courting of controversy that infuses every moment.