Over the weekend, Universal made headlines by pulling its upcoming movie The Hunt from theatrical release and shelving the film indefinitely. The studio put out a statement along with its announcement, which said in part, “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.” The specifics of this film, however, remain largely unknown, given that few people inside — let alone outside the film industry — have seen it. It’s fair to wonder: What the hell is everyone talking about?
The Hunt began garnering attention last week after Universal started pulling back on its marketing campaign following the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Based on the trailer and the limited official plot descriptions provided by Universal, The Hunt — directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof (who all executive produced the film with Blumhouse’s Jason Blum) — focuses on a group of Americans who are kidnapped and dropped off in a rural area in Europe. In this natural arena of sorts, they are then hunted down by rich people who have paid for the Most Dangerous Game experience of murdering them with an array of weapons, including guns. In light of the two recent instances of gun violence in the U.S., Universal decided it was best to shelve the movie and give it no rescheduled release date.
What happened in the time between the ads getting pulled and The Hunt getting canned, and what do we actually know about the film we may never see? Here’s your brief guide:
Does The Hunt feature “deplorables” being hunted for sport?
A preferred refrain on Fox News last week claimed the movie features “privileged vacationers” hunting down “deplorables.” While “privileged vacationers” does seem appropriately vague, there is no use of the word “deplorable” in the trailer or official plot descriptions provided by the studio, either in conjunction with the trailer’s release, or even in various casting announcements reported by the trades. The first footage does feature characters saying they hail from Wyoming, Mississippi, and Florida. One character tells us “every year a bunch of elites kidnap normal folks like us,” but neither the “elites” nor the “normal folks” use the word “deplorable.”
So, does The Hunt feature “deplorables” being hunted for sport? After ads for the movie were pulled, the Hollywood Reporter posted a few quotes from the movie’s screenplay. It reportedly referenced “our ratfucker-in-chief” and “slaughtering a dozen deplorables.” One of the journalists who co-authored that piece, Kim Masters, told Vulture those phrases are in fact in the film — or, at least, in the cut of the film the studio was sitting on before it was shelved. That means the existence of the word “deplorables” is: confirmed.
Are the hunters members of the “liberal elite”?
Next up, the word “liberal elite” has been used to describe the hunters of The Hunt, but that ideological qualifier does not appear in any of Universal’s official descriptions. A detail that accompanied the casting announcement for Betty Gilpin said “the pic explores escalating aggressiveness between the political right and left in America,” but did not specify the ideological alignments of the characters.
Without having seen the movie, we can’t overstate how difficult it is to tell the political affiliations of the ones doing the murdering. Let’s just file this as: known unknown.
Deplorability aside, are the people being hunted supposed to be Trump supporters?
The movie’s trailer features a photo lineup of the hunted, showing the individuals doing things like holding a gun in front of an American flag, posing with a poached rhinoceros, marching with a tiki torch similar to those carried by white nationalists, sitting menacingly behind what looks like a podcast microphone. Some of the images contained within the photo lineup have been associated with conservatives, the alt-right, and/or neo-Nazis — some of whom are Trump supporters — but there’s no direct mention of any of the hunted voting for Trump. The original title of the film was Red State vs. Blue State, and based on reporting by THR it was apparently received with trepidation when Universal bought the project. But considering the persistent vagueness of Red State vs. Blue State, Vulture’s conclusion about whether or not Trump supporters are the ones being hunte is: We have no idea.
OK, but are the bad guys the “globalist elite”?
Another description that has come up about the antagonists in the The Hunt is that they are “globalist elites.” None of the information provided about The Hunt has specified whether or not Hilary Swank, who seems to be the architect of the murder game, and her clientele are globalist or isolationist or members of the New World Order. All we know is that they are rich enough to buy their way into the Hunt, and rich enough for Swank’s character to say in the trailer, “We pay for everything, so this country belongs to us.” (Honestly, they sound a lot like the members of the Elite Hunting Club from the Hostile franchise, and those guys were mostly just politically ambiguous assholes.)
So, are the bad guys the “globalist elite”? Verdict: can’t stress enough how little information we have.
Is The Hunt racist?
The president weighed in on the moral compass of Hollywood this week, explaining during a press appearance on the White House lawn that an unnamed upcoming movie “is made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” While he did not specifically name The Hunt, that particular film was mentioned several times on Fox News prior to his quote. Trump also tweeted, “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level,” and, “They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”
Based on what little we have seen, is The Hunt racist? Really tough to make an assessment on this one based on two minutes of footage, but what we’ve seen features entirely white-on-white violence. Do we have access to any other details whatsoever about the individual characters or their motivations within the movie? No. Judgment: truly cannot tell you anything about this movie.
This has been your myth-busting guide to The Hunt. Stay vigilant, everyone.
*This story has been updated to include comment from a journalist at the Hollywood Reporter.