Eleven strangers wake up in the middle of the woods, with locked gags in their mouths and no idea where they are or how they got there. The only thing they seem to have in common is their conservative beliefs. They have become the prey in a sick game organized by a group of rich liberal elites, who have brought them to The Manor to hunt them for sport. Some of these folks had already believed the conspiracy theories about “Manorgate”, but now there is no denying that they are true. As the hunted make their way to an open field, they discover a Hunger Games-like cornucopia crate containing various weapons to defend themselves. However, as soon as they start to make their selections, the deadly hunt commences, and it quickly becomes a bloody massacre. Crystal (Betty Gilpin) is one of the few who manage to escape the field alive, proving to be much smarter than the dumb Mississippian redneck the hunters thought she was. She quickly turns the tables, becoming the hunter, outsmarting and and taking out the liberals one-by-one, as she looks for Athena (Hilary Swank), the mysterious woman responsible for this messed up event.
The Hunt is a really fun thrill ride, that is a horror movie with some humor and political satire. The film starts with a tense cold open to set the tone, which is followed by an even more exciting, action-packed sequence as the hunt begins. The violence and gore are almost cartoony at times, which makes the film a little more fun than you would expect from such a horror movie, and less Saw torture porn. There are some surprising, unexpected twists in the story, and some characters meet their grisly demise much sooner than expected. (Though there are some pretty despicable characters on both sides that you are not necessarily sad to see go.) The film culminates in a huge, ridiculously over-the-top showdown, that is impressive, exciting and hilarious at the same time.
When the first trailer for this film was released, there was some controversy, which caused its theatrical release to initially get pulled. Most of the backlash came from the use of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” term to describe conservatives, and also the plot involving liberals hunting down the conservatives—we already have plenty of political divide in this country, that we don’t need to propagate it in our entertainment as well. However, the outcry was way overblown. While the film is far less political than expected, I don’t think it was even necessary to make the story a Red State Vs. Blue State thing (which was coincidentally the film’s original title). The movie pokes fun at both sides, and if anything, the liberals probably come off worse. The hunted are depicted as stereotypical rednecks, with the group including several gun lovers with mullets or trucker hats, a white Florida man/Vanilla Ice wannabe (Sturgill Simpson), a big game hunter (Justin Hartley), a dim beauty queen (Emma Roberts), a bigoted podcaster (Ethan Suplee), a Staten island businessman (Ike Barinholtz), among others. On the left side you have a lot of fake folks (Glenn Howerton, Steve Coulter, and others) who are more concerned about looking the right way to others than anything else. They are focused on their social media followers and likes, and whether they are following the latest politically-correct trends and supporting the cause du jour. This actually felt incredibly relevant to what’s going right now with all the self-righteous celebrity activism that has been flooding the internet over the past few weeks, such as the recent ridiculous “I Take Responsibility” video. The liberal characters makea point to say they believe in climate change, use derogatory names for the President, and state that the hunted deserve to die because they “probably used the N word”. Meanwhile the hunted cry out about “crisis actors”, immigrants, and other conspiracies. I already get way too much of this stuff on my social media feeds—I watch movies to get away from this political crap! While I still quite enjoyed the film, I probably would have enjoyed it even more if the political aspect had been stripped away and it was just one non-political group hunting the other for sport.
The Hunt is strewn with lots of excellent, recognizable faces who all give fun, memorable appearances, no matter how long (or short) they stick around. Betty Gilpin is the true star of the movie, delivering an excellent performance. Crystal is a very reserved character, and Gilpin delivers a delightful mix of hilarious deadpan humor along with some really kick-ass action sequences.
Universal’s Blu-ray release provides stellar picture and sound. The picture looks nearly-pristine, with rich detail and beautiful colors, even in the darker scenes. There is no 4K physical release for this film, but I can’t imagine the picture looking much better than this on the 4K digital. The audio track is also impressive, providing a nice immersive experience with the tense score and sounds of gunfire and arrows coming from all directions, helping to bring the action to life in your living room. The release includes both a Blu-ray and a DVD disc packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover. There is an insert with a code to redeem for an HD Movies Anywhere digital copy of the film as well as a bonus code to redeem for points towards digital movies and more in the new Universal All-Access Rewards program. The discs also contain about 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1, French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- 480i / Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- HD digital copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere
- Universal All-Access Rewards Code (Redemption Deadline 6/30/2021)
Code can be redeemed for points towards a free digital movie (current titles are Along Came Polly, Being Flynn, Cop and a Half, Hyde Park on Hudson, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000) or other items in the new Universal All-Access Rewards program.
Digital (code may not be valid after 6/30/2021):
All of the bonus features are available on both discs. There is a convenient Play All option to automatically go through all of the material at once.
- Crafting The Hunt (5:04)
The cast and filmmakers talk about how the film roasts both sides of the political spectrum, and how costumes, props and set dressing—such as the the blue and red color scheme—add to the story. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with producer Jason Blum, director/executive producer Craig Zobel, co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof, co-writer/executive producer Nick Cuse, costume designer David Tabbert, production designer Matthew Munn, and stars Betty Gilpin (“Crystal”), Hilary Swank (“Athena”) and Ike Barinholtz (“Staten Island”).
- Death Scene Breakdowns (2:36)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the film’s excessive and, at times cartoony, violence, and give a look at the effects that were utilized to create some of the big death scenes. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof, director/executive producer Craig Zobel, stunt coordinators Hank Amos & Heidi Moneymaker, makeup department head Lauren Thomas, producer Jason Blum, and stars Chris Berry (“Target”), Sylvia Grace Crim (“Dead Sexy”) and Ike Barinholtz.
- Athena vs Crystal: Hunter or Hunted? (2:42)
The cast and filmmakers talk about the training and work that went into preparing for and executing the film’s huge final fight sequence. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with co-writer/executive producer Nick Cuse, director/executive producer Craig Zobel, co-writer/producer Damon Lindelof, stunt coordinators Heidi Moneymaker & Hank Amos, producer Jason Blum, and stars Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank.
The Hunt is a bloody, entertaining thriller, with lots of humor. The political nature of the story sparked some controversy surrounding the film’s theatrical release, but this was blown out of proportion, and the political aspect of the story actually felt a bit unnecessary. The film features a talented, recognizable cast (though don’t get too attached to any of them), with lead Betty Gilpin delivering a fun and kick-ass performance. The Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent, but only includes about 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes. The film comes recommended for anyone looking for an action-packed, bloody, horror film that doesn’t take things too seriously.