Last August, 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.” That all changed today, however, when producer Jason Blum and The Hunt co-writer Damon Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter that the movie is coming to a theater near you on March 13. The specifics of it, 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?
A quick recap of the movie’s first attempt at release: 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 Lindelof (who all executive-produced the film with 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.
In the latest THR interview, Lindelof says a “perception [of The Hunt] was largely formed based on all the events in the aftermath of the horrific weekend before. [But] we really don’t want to be pointing fingers, and more importantly, we don’t want to be wagging fingers at anyone for overreacting or reacting incorrectly. We just felt like the movie was being misunderstood.” What exactly is there to misunderstand about a film Blum is now framing as “probably the most judged movie that’s ever existed that everyone who judged it hadn’t seen”? 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, and here’s where we have a change from the original press run. That ideological qualifier did not appear in any of Universal’s official descriptions, and a detail that accompanied the casting announcement for Betty Gilpin said “the pic explores escalating aggressiveness between the political right and left in America” without specifying the ideological alignments of the characters. In the newly cut trailer, we now have a character saying “Did you read that article? Every year these liberal elites kidnap a bunch of normal folks like us and hunt us for sport.” The way the trailer cuts during that line implies the posh looking liberal elites are doing bad things to people, so we can switch the status of this detail to: confirmed.
Deplorability aside, are the people being hunted supposed to be Trump supporters?
The movie’s first 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 and the fact that the new trailer does not provide political party alignment, and that producer Blum announced the new release date saying “None of us were interested in taking sides with this movie,” Vulture’s conclusion about whether or not Trump supporters are the ones being hunted remains: 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”? Even with the new trailer, which seems to make the The Hunt’s narrative progression more transparent than the first marketing campaign, the verdict stays the say the same: can’t stress enough how little information we have.
Is The Hunt racist?
The president weighed in on the moral compass of Hollywood during the first wave of controversy, 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 trailers, but what we’ve seen features entirely white-on-white violence and one actor saying, “I’m playing an Arab refugee, but I identify as white. I think that’s problematic, too, in some way.” Do we have access to any other details whatsoever about the individual characters or their ideological motivations within the movie? No. Judgment: truly cannot tell you anything about this movie.
Is this movie about living in “a society, man”?
Honestly that: seems possible, but with a lot less ennui than Joker.
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 as well as new facts available based on the renewed marketing campaign.