THE HUNT (2020) – Ugly Thriller Fails At Both Horror and Satire

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Crystal (Betty Gilpin) fights back in THE HUNT (2020)

THE HUNT (2020), the new thriller by writer Damon Lindelof, who was part of the team that brought us the classic television show LOST (2004-2010), and who also wrote the screenplay for WORLD WAR Z (2013), is yet another of those horror movies featuring the unpleasant concept of humans hunting humans.

It’s what we saw in THE PURGE movies, and in last year’s clever dark comedy, READY OR NOT (2019), which starred Samara Weaving as a bride hunted by her new husband’s family on her wedding night. While I enjoyed READY OR NOT and its deliciously dark sense of humor, I’ve never been a fan of the PURGE movies. They simply haven’t worked for me.

Neither did today’s movie, THE HUNT.

The premise in THE HUNT is that a group of people are abducted from their everyday lives, and when they awake, they find themselves in a clearing surrounded by woods only to be immediately shot at by unseen hunters who have declared open season on humans. This actually sounds scarier than what the movie ultimately becomes, and that’s because THE HUNT suffers from a serious case of the stupids.

More on this in a moment.

It doesn’t take long for nearly every character in the film to meet a grisly and horrific death. We’re talking in the first ten minutes of the movie. Which leaves one character Crystal (Betty Gilpin) to stand her ground and fight back. Fortunately, Crystal is the one interesting character in the entire movie, and Betty Gilpin’s performance here is the main reason to see this one. Otherwise, it would be a complete disaster. That being said, it’s still pretty bad.

See, the premise here in THE HUNT is a group of liberal elites who spend their days talking about fighting racism, taking care of the environment, and other “liberal” issues decide to take it upon themselves to help the world by ridding it of some of its less desirables, people of the opposite political persuasion- in short, people they see as rednecks.

Or so it seems. Eventually we learn the real reason why these victims were selected. It’s a very specific reason and one that really strains credibility. In fact, it’s flat out stupid.

The liberal elite hunters come off as caricatures rather than real people, which really hurts this movie. Likewise, the victims are also exaggerated stereotypes. Both sides are portrayed as pigheaded bigots, which I suppose is the point of the movie, a point that would have been more effectively made had its characters behaved like real people rather than cliches.

The screenplay by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse also can’t make up its mind whether or not it wants to be a straight thriller or a satire. Its over the top dialogue definitely has it leaning towards the satire end of the spectrum, but the writing isn’t sharp enough to pull this off. Not only didn’t I laugh, but I was hardly even amused. Attempts at humor failed left and right. No pun intended.

And then the premise just gets dumber and dumber. When we finally meet the person behind the hunt, Athena (Hilary Swank), and learn her back story, it asks the audience to accept a plot point that is absolutely ludicrous.

The climactic fight scene between Crystal and Athena is a good one, and one of the bright spots of the movie. But there aren’t too many positives here. Director Craig Zobel keeps the blood flowing throughout, but few scenes have any resonance. The over the top violence seems to be going for laughs, but it doesn’t really work.

The only reason to see THE HUNT is for Betty Gilpin’s performance. She’s really good, and Crystal is the only character in the film who doesn’t wear her political views on her sleeve. The rest of the characters all do, and none of them seem all that realistic.

The film is a sloppy attempt to make a statement about the divisions in our current society, but it completely fails. The writing isn’t sharp, the characters come off as phony, and the humor doesn’t work.

THE HUNT is an ugly movie which most likely will be attacked by both sides of the political spectrum as doing a hatchet job on their respective camps. And in this case, both sides would be correct.

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