A film so set on pushing buttons it was held off from hammering the one for its release a whole year, has finally seen the light of day right before every other appears to have lost their chance at doing so. Coming off work from HBO’s Westworld, The Leftovers, and the post-apocalyptic love triangle that was Z For Zachariah, Craig Zobel has a hand in articulating that sometimes two wrongs don’t necessarily make a right viewpoint in The Hunt. The only issue is that in trying to get that message across in between disembowelling and bare knuckle brawls proves to be a difficult task.
Playing like The Purge getaway that could earn a Trip Advisor review, The Hunt is another carnage-crammed bit of horror from Blumhouse that makes the effort from the beginning to subvert your expectations by any means necessary. Beginning with a bunch of randoms waking on what looks like a section of Fortnite, a ballistic bloodbath ensues that will amuse any with a pitch black sense of humour. From here the stage is set as these supposed strangers fight a losing battle for survival, tracked by unknown opponents that are out to get them.
As far as mixing things up, it’s clear that Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse are trying to cleverly put things together but eventually fall into their own trap.
At the centre of it all is Betty Gilpin as Crystal, one of those kidnapped who gets herself ahead of the game on account of being an absolute badass. Hers is just another table that gets turned in a film that operates likes a revolving restaurant, but it’s one that consistently has issues in what it’s cooking up. The prey and predators involved in this dangerous game are overly satirical to an eye-rolling degree. Those caught in the crosshairs are second amendment-saluting podcasters and social media pot-stirrers that are up against vegan PC pushers who just so happen to have set up their own game reserve.
As far as mixing things up, it’s clear that Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, who penned HBO’s Watchmen and The Leftovers are trying to cleverly put things together but eventually fall into their own trap. Neither side fighting for supremacy in The Hunt are a particularly likeable bunch, which may be intentional, but makes it hard to actually enjoy or even be interested in where things are going. It’s all thanks to the prize target that the film stays the course.
Gilpin has turned the skill of looking like a fiery bulldog chewing a wasp into an art form. With a permanent DGAF attitude that infects the screen brilliantly, there isn’t one scene she inhabits that doesn’t have you rooting for her, particularly in the film’s final act. Scrapping with the underused Hilary Swank in a fight that would make John Wick wince, Zobel throws everything into the big showdown that extends the effort to surprise right down to the smallest detail, earning commendation for that alone. But like The Hunt as a whole, the film packs a number of glorious gory punches but struggles to leave an impact or a statement it was so set on making.