‘The Hunt’ is a vastly entertaining satirical drama

Twelve strangers wake up in a field, gagged, unarmed and with no clue where they are, or how they got there, but as the day progresses, they discover they have been chosen for a very specific purpose —  to be hunted and killed by a group of elites with a grudge. That’s the premise of this satirical horror flick, which ​has action, suspense and drama​ and is a great cautionary ​tale of how wrong first impressions can be.

Betty Gilpin as Crystal in “The Hunt,” directed by Craig Zobel.

Riveting from the first scene to the last, it’s an action-thriller-suspense movie with a very high-violent body count, that explores conspiracy theories. The brilliance of “The Hunt” is that it’s not immediately clear what the strangers have in common with each other, and that makes it harder to understand what the agenda of those hunting them might be, which nicely drives the story. Directed by Craig Zobel, screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse knew the key to making the story work was explaining that motivation behind the hunt.

Members of the hunted (from left, Ike Barinholz, back to camera, Justin Hartley, Kate Nowlin), including Daisy (Emma Roberts) and Don (Wayne Duvall), find weapons in a clearing in “The Hunt,” directed by Craig Zobel.

“We wanted to have a really good reason for whoever was hunting people,” Cuse shares. “We didn’t set out to make some statement or write something conspiratorial or political,” he continues. “The key was always just to make it really fun and entertaining. We were just writing about what was interesting to us, and I think because of the political climate and times we’re living in, it touched on some of the themes of the real-world moments we’re all experiencing.”

Produced by Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions (“The Purge,” “Get Out,”), most of the hunted strangers are nameless and meet violent ends, but there’s always a hero and she’s Crystal, played by Betty Gilpin, (“Glow”), a menacing, unstoppable assassin who remains stoic and steadfast throughout the film in her pursuit of those hunting her, methodically killing each one off one by one till she gets to the ringleader Athena (Hilary Swank).

(from left) Athena (Hilary Swank) and Crystal (Betty Gilpin) in “The Hunt,” directed by Craig Zobel.

Unlike almost all genre films, the two principal roles of “The Hunt,” villain and hero, are both women who ultimately face off in a battle of brains and brawn with a brilliant fight scene where kitchen gadgets, appliances and utensils are turned into weapons. It’s a lengthy fight scene reminiscent of the one between Vivica A. Fox and Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film “Kill Bill.”

“The ultimate genesis of what ended up becoming this story was: ‘What if one of these outside conspiracy theories was not true, but the people who are being accused of it decided to make it true as vengeance for what the rumor did to their lives? It was pretty much a runaway horse from there,’” adds Lindelof.

In a digital age, with the dissemination of fake news, an assumption, accusation, email, text or message can be the spark that ignites a controversy, destroying reputations and wrecking lives and that’s ultimately the frightening and dark premise of “The Hunt.”

Check out the trailer below:

By Samantha Ofole-Prince/ Photo Credit: Patti Perret/Universal Pictures

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