The Hunt is a 2020 American film, variously described as a horror, satire, or thriller, directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. The film stars Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee and Hilary Swank. Jason Blum serves as a producer under his Blumhouse Productions banner, along with Lindelof. Both Zobel and Lindelof have said that the film serves as a satire on the profound political divide between the American left and right.
The film was originally scheduled for release on September 27, 2019. However, following the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings in early August 2019, Universal Pictures decided to delay the release of the film.
The Hunt was theatrically released in the United States on March 13, 2020. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $6 million. Due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic closing theatres around the globe, Universal made the film available digitally just a week after its theatrical release.
In a group text, a woman named Athena celebrates an upcoming hunt of “deplorables.” Later, on Athena’s private jet, she kills a man who staggers out from the cargo hold.
Eleven captives wake up gagged in a forest. In a clearing, they find a cache of weapons and keys to their gags, but upon retrieving them, five are killed by an unseen enemy, and three escape over a barbed-wire fence to a gas station. The station’s owners, an elderly couple, identify their location as Arkansas. The three escapees, each kidnapped from a different part of the United States, realize their situation’s similarity to the conspiracy theory “Manorgate”. The couple reveal themselves as among the captors and kill all three.
A captive named Crystal arrives at the gas station and, noticing that the station’s cigarettes are too expensive for Arkansas, kills the couple with a gun from under the counter. A truck outside hides Croatian number plates under false Arkansas plates. Crystal and another captive, a conspiracy theorist podcaster named Gary, board a train car full of refugees, whom Gary believes to be crisis actors; the train is raided by Croatian soldiers. When Gary tries to convince the soldiers of Manorgate and the refugees’ perfidy, a refugee admits to Gary that he and only he is an actor, but says the raid was not planned for, and offers a headstart for Gary’s cooperation. Gary uses a grenade the actor had hidden to kill him, and Crystal is taken to a refugee camp.
Crystal meets another escaped prisoner named Don at the camp, and an American envoy arrives to take them to the embassy. As the envoy tries to make Don admit wrongdoing, Crystal kicks the envoy out of the car and runs him down, and she and Don find Gary’s body in the trunk with a map. Crystal tells Don the story of “the Jackrabbit and the Box Turtle,” a version of The Tortoise and the Hare in which the Jackrabbit kills the Box Turtle after losing. At the envoy’s intended destination, Crystal kills the hunters she finds and wounds their consultant Sgt. Dale. Athena calls out to Don via radio, asking if he killed Crystal. When Don refuses to disarm, Crystal kills him. Crystal aggravates Sgt. Dale’s wounds to get Athena’s location and after telling him, a National Guardsman, that she fought in Afghanistan, kills him.
A flashback reveals that Athena’s text exchange had been a joke based on the preexisting conspiracy theory, which cost her and others lucrative jobs. In revenge, they gather up believers in Manorgate, rating them based on suitability. Despite Crystal’s low rating, Athena takes her insults personally and insists on her. When Crystal confronts Athena, Athena mocks Crystal’s personal history, and Crystal realizes Athena had meant to kidnap a woman with a similar name. Crystal and Athena impale one another on the two blades of a food processor; Athena dies, but Crystal gets a second wind upon seeing a jackrabbit and escapes on Athena’s jet.
- Betty Gilpin as Crystal Creasey
- Ike Barinholtz as Staten Island
- Emma Roberts as Yoga Pants
- Hilary Swank as Athena Stone
- Wayne Duvall as Don
- Ethan Suplee as Gary
- Justin Hartley as Trucker Shane
- Glenn Howerton as Richard
- Macon Blair as Fauxnvoy
- Amy Madigan as Ma
- Reed Birney as Pop
- Teri Wyble as Liberty
- Sturgill Simpson as Vanilla Nice
- Jim Klock as Captain O’Hara
- Usman Ally as Crisis Mike
- J. C. MacKenzie as Paul
- Steve Coulter as The Doctor
- Dean West as Martin
- Steve Mokate as Sgt. Dale
- Sylvia Grace Crim as Dead Sexy
In March 2018, Universal Pictures acquired the rights to the film, which would be directed by Craig Zobel with a script from Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. The original title of the script was Red State Vs. Blue State, a reference to the red states and blue states. Later, Universal issued a statement denying that the film had ever had it as its working title.
The elite hunters’ reference to their quarry as “deplorables” is an allusion to the phrase “basket of deplorables”, used by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 United States presidential election campaign to refer to supporters of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. An early draft of the script depicted working-class conservatives as the film’s heroes.
In March 2019, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, Ike Barinholtz and Betty Gilpin were announced as being cast in the film. In April 2019, Amy Madigan, Jim Klock, Charli Slaughter, Steve Mokate and Dean West joined the cast of the film. Hilary Swank was announced as being cast in July.
Filming began on February 20, 2019, in New Orleans, and was completed on April 5.
Nathan Barr compose the film score, replacing Heather McIntosh who was currently scoring the film. Back Lot Music has released the soundtrack.
The film was scheduled for release on September 27, 2019. It was, for a time, moved back to October 18 before shifting back to its original release date of September 27. On August 7, 2019, Universal announced that in the wake of the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, they would be suspending the film’s promotional campaign. Several days later, the film was pulled from the studio’s release schedule.
In February 2020, the film’s release in the United States had been rescheduled to March 13, 2020 (Friday the 13th), with a new trailer, partially in response to the success of the similarly controversial film Joker. Producer Jason Blum stated in an interview that “not one frame was changed” since the delay and that it was “exactly the same movie”.
The Hunt was released on March 20 to streaming platforms, before the end of the usual 90-day theatrical run, by Universal Pictures in response to increased restrictions on screenings in movie theaters due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Bloodshot and I Still Believe, and was projected to gross $8–11 million from 3,028 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $2.2 million on its first day, including $435,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $5.3 million, finishing fifth. The weekend was also noteworthy for being the lowest combined grossing since October 1998, with all films totaling just $55.3 million, in large part from societal restrictions and regulations due to the Coronavirus pandemic.