Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Review: The Hunt

The Hunt
Cert: 15 / 90 mins / Dir. Craig Zobel / Trailer

It's not that I never thought I'd see the time when we got three Blumhouse movies within a three week span, more that I never expected that trio to be good with it. Although truth be told, it's also the third Blumhouse movie that's a rehash of older material, but hey. After all of The Controversy (I won't link to that), Craig Zobel's The Hunt is essentially a class-flipped Purge for the binary times in which we find ourselves. A disparate, all-ages gathering of stereotypical, right-wing 'rednecks' find themselves drugged, abducted, and awakened in rural countryside as they become prey to a select lodge of strangely amoral, gun-toting liberals*1. Furnished with a selection of weapons to give the hunt more of a sporting edge, it quickly becomes apparent that the odds are not in their favour.

Make no mistake, The Hunt is not subtle and it is not trying to be subtle. Nowhere near as archly provocative as its knee-jerk critics would have you believe, this is the cinematic equivalent of shitposting and is best enjoyed as a grotesque comedy where the lines between left, right, wrong and right aren't so much blurred as smeared in blood then pounded with a baseball bat. And while it's easy to dismiss this as lazy, keep in mind that writers Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse were behind HBO's recent Watchmen series; they can do nuance and intrigue, that's just not what this is about.

What's initially interesting is that the film doesn't build up any sense of mystery for its audience. The kidnapping setup is pretty much explained in the first five minutes, and the victims themselves work it out within ten. At first it seems like this could be a new approach in order to explore other angles of the story, then the pacing of the action itself gives away that this is so we can cut to the chase much more quickly*2. With eleven subjects released into the woodland to fight for survival, characters are introduced and despatched in very short order. Some of the injuries that people walk away from here are delightfully unhinged, but rest assured that there's always another danger around the corner.

As we power through the movie, its third act sees something of a slowdown as a metric ton of exposition is shovelled in (for the most part, needlessly), but there's still enough dark humour to just about earn the change of pace. Not least because by that point there are fewer players to kill off. Besides, it's all scene-setting for a gloriously climactic showdown. But the bottom line is that The Hunt is more concerned with gleefully spraying claret than making moral judgements, and is all the better for that. A massive amount of fun...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Predators, Ready Or Not, The Belko Experiment.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is, although at present you can't.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Saturday night / drinks with friends / yes.
The Hunt is currently on digital platforms, so go for it

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Everyone involved can smile at having this on their CV.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Given its lukewarm critical and audience-reception, I'd say that's not altogether unlikely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Betty Gilpin is in this, and she was in Stuber along with Iko 'Quin-Fee' Uwais.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Upon seeing the trailer a couple of months ago, my first thought wasn't so much The Purge as 'hang on, isn't this a bit like that shonky old Hauer/Busey thriller from the mid 90s?'. Then I looked more into that and realised these are just two adaptations of the 1924 novel, The Most Dangerous Game. And when you see just how many times that's been translated to the screen, you've got to figure that one more go can't hurt. [ BACK ]

*2 90 minutes, including credits; an almost unheard of runtime in this day and age, and the minutes saved on story-building are very much put into the action scenes instead. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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