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  Hunt, The Don't Believe Everything You Read On Social Media
Year: 2020
Director: Craig Zobel
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Emma Robert, Christopher Berry, Sturgill Simpson, Kate Nowlin, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Glenn Howerton, Steve Coulter, Dean J. West, Vince Pisani, Macon Blair, Justin Hartley
Genre: Horror, Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There's a conspiracy theory going around the internet that states the Liberal Elite have turned on the conservatives, to the extent that they have armed themselves and begun to shoot the people they regard as their political enemy. But nobody really believes that, right? Nobody except the twelve conservatives who end up drugged and flown to a secret location on a private jet - one wakes up on the journey and is despatched with a pen to the jugular, so that spoils some of the Elite's fun - and awaken with gags in their mouths in a field. There is a crate in the field, and one of the kidnapped folks is brave (or stupid) enough to crowbar it open, whereupon a pig trots out - what's going on?

It was The Most Dangerous Game time again, that's what, only with a spoofy political spin which attracted the ire of both sides of the debate in the United States, so much so that the film had to be pulled from release after a mass shooting prompted it to be seen as incredibly bad taste. Once it was finally put out the following year, it fell victim to the coronavirus cinema closures and had to be pulled from theatres anyway, which led Universal to try and recoup its budget with streaming, though perhaps the damage had been done and The Hunt was a rare outing from Blumhouse (them again) which failed to find its intended audience. But then again, what was its intended audience?

By taking satirical aim at both extremes in a very polarised social climate, it risked not satisfying anyone, which may have been the case, but if you were somewhere in the middle, caught in the online insult fest crossfire that was the internet's social media platforms in 2020, then you would have something to appreciate. The trouble was, of course, that debating any issues had reduced everyone to cartoons as seen by the opposite take, and this was a premise that fell apart the moment you tried to work out how it would have succeeded in real life. Yet was that not the point, that the most paranoid conspiracy theories currently blighting the net were inherently absurd?

The script by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof blatantly took its cue from the Pizzagate controversy, one of the most unhinged, hate-filled conspiracies to emerge in the previous few years that was fuelled online by point scorers yet also believed by the gullible whose hatred was proving politically useful. Given that was not the most humorous of subjects (unless you have a particularly twisted sense of humour), The Hunt had its work cut out making a comedy out of this, and in truth though there were scattered laughs, it was too laboured as far as the jokes went to be a real ribtickler. With that impression uppermost in the mind, you might think the eye-rolling starts early and lasts the whole ninety minutes, but after a while being exactly the film you feared, it settles into something unexpected.

This is thanks to the introduction of Crystal (Betty Gilpin), an ex-Army (we have to assume) individual who is capable enough to survive the plethora of traps the Elite set for their prey, but is not wholly allied to either her conservative fellow victims nor the liberals out to get revenge for years of online abuse. The Elite are portrayed as odd hypocrites who find endless problems in language and "cultural appropriation" yet have no issues with shooting those "deplorables" who are offensive to them in the head; they're a conceit, and not very convincing ones. The reactionaries are also painted with a broad brush, as if their online personas were carried over to real life, but Crystal is such a strange character that we are drawn to her, with her offbeat reaction combined with a no-nonsense attitude to survival. That we are left with questions about her forces us to reassess the way we place others in boxes of opinion, and Gilpin and her role were by far the best thing in a movie that worked itself up into what it should have been from the beginning. Music by Nathan Barr.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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