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'The Hunt' Gets Cancelled

'The Hunt' Gets Cancelled
In this Aug. 23, 2016, file photo, the entrance to the Universal Studios lot is pictured in Universal City, Calif. Universal Pictures has canceled the planned September 2019 release of its controversial social thriller "The Hunt" in the wake of recent mass shootings and criticism from President Donald Trump. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019 12:28 PM Current | Bio | Archive

A week after Universal Pictures announced it would cease marketing its movie “The Hunt” in the wake of the attacks in Dayton and El Paso the studio has cancelled the film's scheduled September 27 wide release.

This announcement also came after President Donald Trump derided Hollywood in a Friday tweet for even making the film without actually mentioning it by name.

In the history of American movies there have been a scant few instances when a film was postponed or outright cancelled due to tragic real-life events taking place at about the same time. The most notable example of this involved the delayed release of “Collateral Damage” and “Gangs of New York” in the wake of the events taking place in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Both movies (originally scheduled for public view in the fall of 2001) were eventually released in February and December of 2002 respectively.

Frequently regarded as the most popular short story ever written, Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” from 1924 has been adapted for 25 TV series episodes (including “The Simpsons”), four radio plays, a couple TV movies and a staggering 14 feature films, the most recent being — you guessed it — “The Hunt.”

While all of these versions tweak the original source to some degree, each of them retains the same basic plot line: humans hunting other humans.

As major feature film gestation periods go, the one for “The Hunt” was relatively short. The rights were acquired in March of 2018 by producers Jason Blum (“Get Out, “Us,” the most recent incarnation of “Halloween”) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (a frequent scribe on the TV show “Lost”) with shooting taking place between February and April of 2019 under the direction of Craig Zobel (“Z for Zachariah”).

Although the TV and print ads have been pulled, the trailer is still readily available on many internet outlets including but not limited to YouTube. As is often the sad case with modern movie trailers, the one for “The Hunt” gives away the plot almost in full and it is to say, in the least, beyond troubling.

The hunters are referred to as “elites” and the prey “deplorables,” a word which would have likely remained regulated to vernacular obscurity until it was revived for the ages and beyond by 2016 Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Both intended and received as an insult of Trump supporters, the “deplorable speech” has been cited by many (including Clinton herself) as a major factor in her loss.

At one point in the trailer, a person questions someone appearing to be their boss (Hilary Swank) about the enterprise of human hunting. Swank’s character responds with clipped disdain, “they’re not human beings!” Those non-humans to whom Swank’s character (a variation on the Zaroff character from the original story) refers have been kidnapped from states such as Wyoming, Mississippi, and Florida and, thanks mostly to the pluck, tenacity, and innate survival skills of Crystal (Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”), they appear to turn the tables on their captors but not before suffering multiple casualties along the way.

Although stated by another character that the story is set in Arkansas, a covered license plate revealed by Crystal indicates they’re fighting for their lives in a heavily wooded area of Croatia, a place where the hunters (presumably) could escape the long arm of the law or any kind of American justice.

There are a few questions here which must be asked. First, given the powder keg nature of current American politics and the strong, largely intractable division amongst its voting citizens on both sides, why would any major studio have even considered producing a movie as inflammatory and controversial as “The Hunt” (which was originally titled — get ready for it — “Red State vs. Blue State”)?

Question two: why would Hollywood — a self-admitted and proud bastion of the left — want to produce a movie where liberals are presented as villains and “deplorables” are portrayed as victims — especially heading into such a contentious and polarizing voting season?

In a press release announcing the films’ cancellation, Universal referred to “The Hunt” as a “satire” but the longer, final trailer clearly indicates it to be a dramatic horror/thriller, sans any noticeable humor, comedy, or irony.

Next, how would any political junkie and/or movie gadfly on either side of the aisle from coast to coast and all the fly-over states in between have reacted had the roles of the two ideological camps portrayed in the film been reversed? The alternate-universe negative uproar would have likely been much greater from both sides but for vastly different reasons.

The last time a movie from a major studio was “cancelled” was “The Interview” from 2014 which depicted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in an unfavorable light but eventually saw the light of day only months later and became available for public view, albeit in small, almost microscopic numbers.

Could this cancellation in actuality be a sly marketing ploy by Universal to build up even further interest for a timelier release later on down the road closer to Election Day 2020? Don’t bet against it.

Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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A week after Universal Pictures announced it would cease marketing its movie “The Hunt” in the wake of the attacks in Dayton and El Paso the studio has cancelled the film's scheduled September 27 wide release.
the hunt, universal
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2019-28-13
Tuesday, 13 August 2019 12:28 PM
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