This article includes major spoilers for The Hunt.
There is something important going on at the center of The Hunt. You probably noticed it, even though it’s not really highlighted in the film. It’s a quiet little warning bell, hidden between the outrageous kills, massive stunts, and overt political nods.
It’s not as surprising as Emma Roberts’ character dying in the first fifteen minutes. It’s not as memorable as the bisected woman in the spike pit, her intestines artfully splayed across the dirt. It’s not even as loud at the obvious message of the film that “both sides” of the political spectrum include some despicable people. But it’s there.
If you haven’t seen The Hunt there’s likely a good reason. The film was pulled before its initial release in 2019 after various big names objected to its content. The Wall Street Journal said it was “designed to stoke division in the country.” Time went with the more maternal, “not appropriate.” While the never-to-be-out-done Fox News said The Hunt “shows Hollywood for what it really is, demented and evil.”
But why? Why did all of these outlets lose their minds over a microbudget horror film? It’s difficult to tell. Most believe that production company, Blumhouse, decided to pull the movie in the wake of yet another tragic mass shooting. An understandable decision. Some also speculate that the president’s tweet, in which he suggested The Hunt was made to “inflame and cause chaos,” could have had something to do with it.
Whatever the reason, the picture was shelved for 2019, only to find a new VOD release in March of 2020.
It’s likely director Craig Zobel would have preferred his film was viewed on a big screen, but The Hunt’s message comes through even on a 43” Samsung TV. The story follows twelve abducted strangers who must fight to survive “the hunt,” a fabled event held by wealthy liberals. This event is a sort of modernized “most dangerous game.” The rich, educated, but untrained, liberals use various weapons to stalk and kill their more conservative counterparts.
It’s a simple story, and one that at least on the surface seems to celebrate a type of persecuted working class. This makes the opposition from conservative politicians and right-wing news sources all the more baffling. But when examined more closely, there may well be a reason so many outlets and high-profile individuals should be frightened by this little horror/action/comedy.
While the easiest theme of The Hunt could be interpreted as “there is evil on all sides,” the quietly tolling alarm at the heart of this movie is a little more complex.
At the end of the film, it’s revealed that until this present day, there had never been a real hunt. In fact, the idea of the hunt was truly just a conspiracy theory given life through social media. But after the “elites” were fired for their perceived murderous deeds, they decided to get revenge by staging a real-life hunt for the first time, targeting the individuals that called most loudly for their dismissal.
Like a mythical tulpa, the conspiracy theory of the hunt grew so powerful that it was brought to life. A metaphorical snake eating its tail, the story shows us the Sysiphisian world of actions and consequences can often start before a single move has been made.
There is very little room left in our society for being “the bigger person.” Instead swift action, retaliation, and clap backs, fill us with an adrenaline rush that fools us into believing we’ve made some sort of impact. Usually these hot takes are as harmless as they seem, but even a tweet is the flap of a butterfly wing that has the ability to move mountains.
Hidden beneath the goofy deaths and comical monologues, The Hunt’s silent warning is about these important truths. We all have power over what we believe, over who we believe. We all have the power to think before we speak. And as we move forward into an increasingly unstable world, we can use that power to create peace or destroy worlds.