The Hunt

The Hunt ★★★

“The Hunt” begins with a bunch of NPR-addicted neoliberals poaching a wild pack of Trump-worshipping MAGA types for bloodsport. Director Craig Zobel’s ultra-violent satirical update of “The Most Dangerous Game” aspires to be the movie that America needs right now; it’s a giddy slaughterhouse of mirrors that hopes to bring this country together and make it great again by reflecting the absurdity of us vs them resentment. The movie literalizes the rhetoric of a culture war that has divided the United States into “globalist cucks who run the deep state” and “redneck deplorables” with little wiggle room in between. Blumhouse’s latest blast of low-budget social commentary tries to split the difference between centrists and nihilists — between “bothsidesism” and “nosidesism”— in order to illustrate the self-destructive stupidity of mutual dehumanization.

And yet, about seven weeks before it was first supposed to open in theaters, “The Hunt” was eviscerated by the same ideology-driven polarization it was made to parody (and lament). As you may or may not remember from last fall, the current President of the United States kicked up a 24-hour shit-storm as soon as he caught wind of the film’s premise, thus leaving Universal with no choice but to reschedule the release (Trump’s command of irony is only matched by his peerless understanding of epidemiology).

On the one hand, the preemptive blowback proved the movie’s thesis in the most idiotically predictable of ways, as the world’s loudest right-wing troll looked at “The Hunt” through the narrow prism of his biases and mislabeled it a liberal fantasy sight unseen. On the other hand, that triggered response suggested that things might be just a bit too fucked for such a head-on piece of shlock to make sense of the mess we’ve made, or do anything more than draw a body chalk outline around the corpse of the idealized American citizen. Combining the droll self-satisfaction of a New Yorker cartoon with the wet gore of an Eli Roth movie, Zobel’s tense, well-crafted, and deviant grindhouse take on the national temperature has no trouble caricaturing what ails us, but even that fun combo lacks the killer instinct required to see us more clearly than we see each other.

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