the hunt | craig zobel | nick cuse | damon lindelof | betty gilpin | hilary swank | ike barinholtz | satire | action | thriller | united states | wayne duvall | ethan suplee | emma roberts | christopher barry | amy madigan | sturgill simpson | kate nowlin | reed birney
Film: The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel
Writer: Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof
Starring: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank and Ike Barinholtz
This was a film that I remember when I first heard about it and then was pretty shocked that it got pulled. There was some buzz about it and I had an idea of where they were going to take it. To be honest, it seemed like a marketing ploy though to have it pulled and then to reissue it later. It didn’t work out as well since COVID happened and it really only had two weeks in the theater. The buzz then was it had a price tag to rent of $20 on streaming services. I missed it in theaters unfortunately and couldn’t justify the high price. It was one I waited the drop to normal prices so Jaime and I could finally see it. We gave it a second viewing now as it was added to HBO Max. The synopsis is twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chose – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt.
We start this movie off with looking over someone’s shoulder as they’re part of a text message thread. What is interesting is that I knew a bit about this movie and how it was twisting something I’ve seen recently on social media. What is important here is that the phone belongs to Athena. She’s irate about something and states that she can’t wait to go hunt at the manor. The others state they shouldn’t be talking about it over text.
It then shifts over to an airplane where Richard (Glenn Howerton) is giving the stewardess a hard time. We see he has particular tastes and they aren’t necessarily getting met. It all takes a turn though when a guy barges in and we can tell he’s been drugged. There is a doctor on board, portrayed by Steve Coulter, and they try to get the guy to calm down. It ends with who we assume is Athena, stabbing him in the eye with her high heel shoe.
We then get into really what is happening here. Yoga Pants (Emma Roberts) wakes up in the woods. She looks across from her over a creek is Crystal (Betty Gilpin). Yoga Pants goes off and comes to a large field where there is Staten Island (Ike Barinholtz) and Don (Wayne Duvall) amongst others. There is a giant crate that is opened to reveal a bunch of weapons. Also inside is a pig wearing clothes, which escapes into the woods.
This is where it gets wild. People start to shoot at the ones I’ve named in the clearing and it is a blood bath. We follow Staten Island, Big Red (Kate Nowlin) and Vanilla Nice (Sturgill Simpson) as they make it to a small gas station. Things aren’t as it seems though with the owners, Ma (Amy Madigan) and Pop (Reed Birney).
There is a much deeper plot going on here and Crystal really just wants to get home. We get to meet her for the first time when she arrives at this same gas station. Later we learn that she has military training and she is quite observant. It becomes a fight for survival from these elites that are hunting them, but as I said, not everything is as it seems.
To shift this over to my thoughts on the film, that is where I wanted to leave the recap. It really has an interesting way to present the story. I’ve been hearing for months of how great Gilpin was in this movie as Crystal, so I knew from the beginning that she was going to be our lead. What is interesting is that I watched this with Jaime and she had no idea. When certain characters we were following died, I had to let on for the movie to settle in as we really hadn’t met the star yet. That is kind of an interesting way to kick this off for sure. It actually feels a lot like Psycho or Scream, where you are expecting actors you recognize to be around longer and our stars don’t show up until 30 minutes and an hour respectively.
What I do like about this movie is that I feel the satirical nature of it is intriguing. My initial thought was that they were going to have rich right-wing people hunting liberals. I picked up on from the opening text message thread that isn’t the case, they actually flip it on its head. The movie is playing with the idea of these ‘-gate’ conspiracies. They refer to #ManorGate. People online are running with it and this is the crux of this story. What is even more interesting with this is how things play out in the end and the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. This movie is mocking ‘social justice warriors’, ‘cancel culture’, ‘toxic fandom’ and how things on the internet can get out of hand very quickly. It is funny though that the villains in this movie are those that think they’re helping the country and the ‘crazy’ people are actually the sane ones. What we are really getting here is that the Far Right and the Far Left are the problem where most everyone is in the middle.
Taking this even farther, it is wild that I just re-read the novel Animal Farm before my first viewing. While Jaime and I were watching this I realized that Athena, who is Hilary Swank, states that someone can be their Snowball. That was when the references I heard earlier clicked. The pig’s name is Orwell after the author. Some of the nicknames given to people are from the novel and of course, Snowball. What is funny is that reference is used wrong which makes it a bit ironic. Especially since Athena thinks she is more intelligent than Crystal. We also get a different telling of the classic children’s story of the Tortoise and the Hare as well.
I want to take this next to the acting. I heard a lot of people bragging up Gilpin and I have to agree. Her character is from Mississippi, which I think actually works well. There’s a couple reveals about her character, one of which I’ve referenced before that she has military training. Swank is interesting as someone I would despise. Her performance is good though and it is a shame that she doesn’t act much anymore. I’d say aside from that, we have some really good side characters that serve their purpose around these two stars of Barinholtz, Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Roberts, Madigan and Howerton. It is even more interesting that we don’t really see our stars for some time and it is a technique that wouldn’t always work, but does here.
Next I’ll shift this over to the effects of the movie, which for the most part are good. This movie is more brutal than I was expecting which was pleasant. There is some CGI that doesn’t necessarily work for me. This is most with blood splatter so it doesn’t ruin anything. The movie has practical effects in conjunction with this so that makes me happy there. Aside from that, I’d say the cinematography is also good in my opinion.
Now with that said, I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing this movie. This was the last major in theater film that I didn’t get a chance to see before this quarantine came down for COVID. It was bothering me as I know a lot of people were speaking pretty highly about it as I wanted to see this. I think that this movie does some really good stuff with social commentary and playing with it in a way that I can respect. Some of it is over the top, but I can forgive that being a satire. The acting from the two leads was strong with the rest in support of them. The effects are good for the most part as was the cinematography. The soundtrack didn’t stand out to me and I never got bored watching this movie. Not everything worked with it and I do find some of material a bit problematic though as well. My rating here would be that this is a good movie, but not sure I can go higher than that. Also can’t recommend this to everyone as some people are going to despise what this movie is doing. If you have thick enough skin, I think this is a fun movie in general. I’m also glad to give this a second viewing as I enjoyed it even more after hearing others thoughts to make me consider more things this time around.
My Rating: 9 out of 10