‘The Hunt’ Controversy, Explained

This film has endured quite a dramatic journey to a release, but does it warrant the outrage?
The Hunt
By  · Published on March 13th, 2020

In today’s politically charged climate, a movie inciting outrage before it’s even released isn’t uncommon. As soon as people — on the left or the right — assume that a film is going to offend their sensibilities, they’ll grab their pitchforks and shout at the top of their voices. Usually, the controversy is blown way out of proportion and the movies in question don’t warrant the anger. It’s rare for a movie to cause so much of a ruckus across the political spectrum that even the president of the United States throws a hissy fit on Twitter. But that’s what makes The Hunt such an interesting release, even if the controversy was overblown from the get-go.

There’s no denying that The Hunt is a movie that was always going to ruffle a few feathers, though. After all, the early reports described it as a movie about elite liberals who set out to kill “deplorables.” If anything, that premise suggests that the conservative characters are the heroes, as the victims in movies of this ilk tend to be the ones audiences are supposed to root for. To judge this film without context, it’d be easy to assume that it leans politically to the right. But Donald Trump didn’t see it that way.

After the trailer was released, “the rat fucker-in-chief” (as characters in the movie call him) took to Twitter to accuse Hollywood of being racist, claiming that “the movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” While he didn’t mention The Hunt by name, it was the only trailer to be released that week which set social media aflame. Irony has never been Trump’s strong suit, though, and even some conservative outlets tried to inform him why he should support the film. But The Hunt was shelved indefinitely following his tweet, and Universal opted to release it months later — during the coronavirus pandemic — instead.

Still, while Trump was probably just looking for an opportunity to lash out at the Hollywood liberals who regularly criticize him, there were other factors that suggested The Hunt was all about fueling the sociopolitical flames. The Hunt’s original title was reportedly Red State vs. Blue State, but director Craig Zobel has since denied that such a title was ever considered. That said, the rumored title did give those who believed the film would cause societal divisions more reasons to get mad about it.

Of course, Trump wasn’t the only one who had an issue with the movie coming out. The Hunt’s original planned release of September last year came just after the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, which resulted in Universal having to rethink its marketing strategy. Given the film’s violent subject matter and the real world debates surrounding gun violence at the time, some people felt releasing the movie would be socially irresponsible. Ads were subsequently pulled until things calmed down, and then the Trump situation happened.

In an interview with Variety from last year, the filmmakers explain their intention was merely to poke fun at partisanship on both sides of the aisle, in the hope that viewers would be able to put their differences aside, realize that neither side is perfect, and hopefully find some common ground through good entertainment.

“We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.”

Now the big question is: does The Hunt warrant the controversy? According to our own Rob Hunter, “If you’re offended by The Hunt, then rest assured that the problem is you.” It’s not a movie about causing more tension between the left and the right. It’s an exploitation movie that’s more critical of people who manufacture outrage and lack empathy towards others, regardless of their political stance. People will all have their own opinions about this one, and that’s fine. But chances are most of them won’t find the film to be as dangerous as its loudest critics would have you believe, either.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.