Film Review: The Hunt

Note: This is film #101 of my 365 Film Challenge.

WARNING! Some spoilers ahead.

This is a film that starts with a great premise and has some nice touches throughout but ultimately fails because of some heavy handed satire and lack of character development on both sides, which results in little more than caricatures.

The film opens with a dozen people finding themselves in the woods, gagged. As they stagger about confused they discover a crate of weapons, and a piglet, and then discover that they are being hunted by an unseen enemy. As the film progresses they start to get picked off while trying to work out where they are and who is hunting them.

Things go wrong for the hunters, however, as it soon emerges that one of the group, Crystal (Betty Gilpin) isn’t going down without a fight. She also possesses the skills and ruthless streak to start fighting back, and soon the roles of hunter and prey shifts. As she starts working her way through the enemies can she work out what the hell is actually going on and survive the ordeal?

Here’s what’s good about the movie- the action sequences are darkly comic brutal affairs and some of the deaths are very well done. Similarly, in the lead Gilpin is superb as an asskicking badass who may or may not be a little insane herself. I’ve always thought that this would make an interesting idea for a movie, a horror film where the intended victim actually turns out to be capable, vicious and turns the tables on the bad guys. Gilpin’s Crystal is shown early on to be smart, skilled at surviving in the wild and handy in a scrap, and the film keeps her background fairly shady so we’re never entirely sure what her deal is.

And the final showdown between her and villain Hilary Swank is a slobberknocker. Furniture gets broken, people get thrown through windows, kitchen utensils become weapons, it’s a crazy, chaotic scrap that really works as a climactic showdown.

But now the weak points. While keeping her background secret works in some ways, it would still be nice if they developed Crystal a bit more as her character is a little underdeveloped, and we don’t get a real sense of who she is.

The other characters are all pretty basic too. There’s satire of redneck conspiracy theorists, but also of liberal elites worried about using the incorrect phrasing and debating equality and triggers in between hunting people. And that’s the problem, the film never seems to decide where it wants to land. The right are morons, thugs and nutters. But the left are weak, pompous and condescending. Pick a side man. Or at least clearly differentiate Crystal from both.

Like I said, there are nice touches and some good moments, but it fumbles the ball. It does the “oh, you thought this person was the hero, well, now they’re dead!” trick one too many times, and you kinda twig early on that none of these would-be heroes are actually the real deal.

Similarly, the villains, Swank aside,could do with beefing up a bit, and perhaps given a nastier streak. Their menace and villainess is dampened by the slightly lame satirical dialogue they’re saddled with.

It’s a decent enough thrill ride but it doesn’t have as much to say as it thinks it does and falls flat in some aspects. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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