The first trailer for Craig Zobel-directed horror-thriller The Hunt arrived last July, pitting GLOW Emmy winner Betty Gilpin and other “normal folks” against Hilary Swank and the shadowy group of “liberal elites” who kidnap Gilpin and her fellow “deplorables” so as to hunt them for sport. What seemed like the promise of a provocative bit of social commentary couched in a bloody Blumhouse film soon turned into a federal case (figuratively speaking) after Donald Trump and company decided to feign outrage over the movie, accusing it of being “made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” Universal shelved the film in response to the outrage, but now, months later, the studio has reinstated its release: They plan to open it on 3,000 screens on Friday, March 13, and are cleverly marketing the film as “the most talked-about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen,” inviting audiences to make up their own minds.
Producer Jason Blum and screenwriter Damon Lindelof (who co-wrote the film with Nick Cuse) defended The Hunt in an interview with THR published Tuesday, arguing that the film was intended as a deliberately over-the-top satire of a polarized United States that takes equal aim at both sides of the divide. “None of us were interested in taking sides with this movie,” Blum tells the trade, with Lindelof adding, “For us there was just a fundamental frustration that nobody was talking about the movie. They were all talking about what their perception of the movie was … We just felt like the movie was being misunderstood.” It’s unclear whether the film itself was actually changed in any way in response to all the controversy, or if the folks behind The Hunt just opted to wait for all the commotion to die down before trotting the film back out in its original form.
THR’s report goes on to describe some of the film’s “intense violence,” sure to earn it an R rating:
Characters in the film, which THR has seen, are graphically dispatched in a variety of ways: shot with a bullet to the head or a bow and arrow, impaled on metal spikes, pulverized with a grenade in the pants, poisoned and—perhaps most memorably—done in with a stiletto heel plunged into an eyeball.
Lindelof goes on to tell THR of the film, “We think that people who see it are going to enjoy it and this may be a way to shine a light on a very serious problem in the country, which is that we’re divided. And we think the movie may actually, ironically, bring people together.”
Watch Universal’s new trailer for The Hunt below, which puts a particularly fine point on the idea that movies aren’t real life—“You wanted it to be real, so you decided it was,” Swank’s character opines at one point, as if she’s speaking directly to Trump—and revisit our September 2019 essay on the film here.