It only took a spate of mass shootings — as well as the concomitant backlash from conservatives — to convince Universal Pictures that maybe a film in which rich liberals hunt conservatives may not have been such a hot idea after all.
According to Variety, “The Hunt,” originally scheduled for a September 27 release, has been pushed back indefinitely by the studio.
“While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for ‘The Hunt,’ after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” Universal said said in a statement.
“We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”
The studio had originally suspended marketing and promotion of the film in the wake of the two mass shootings last weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
However, the decision was made Saturday to officially pull the plug on the release.
The film was billed as a satire — a kind of “The Most Dangerous Game 2019” — which The Hollywood Reporter says is about “a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.”
A sample from the screenplay:
“Did anyone see what our ratf—er-in-chief just did?” one character asks. “At least The Hunt’s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables,” another says.
The script, by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, was originally titled “Red State v. Blue State,” just in case you didn’t get how heavy-handed this was all supposed to be. In a duly violent trailer, which I’ll only link here because of the graphic imagery (warning: it’s very violent), one of the liberals says, “We pay for everything, so this country belongs to us.”
“Hunting human beings for sport?” another character asks.
“They’re not human beings,” Hilary Swank’s character, who appears to be behind the hunt, responds.
Ads were pulled from major networks after the mass shootings. And, as Fox News noted, President Donald Trump came out against the movie without mentioning it by name.
“Hollywood, I don’t call them the elites. I think the elites are the people they go after in many cases. But Hollywood is really terrible,” he said Friday.
“What they’re doing, with the kind of movie they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.”
Other conservatives were similarly incensed:
No fair assessment of violent death in America can exclude a thorough look at video games and Hollywood’s output of films that cheapen human life.
If “The Hunt” is too violent for release after El Paso and Dayton wouldn’t it be too violent for release anytime?
— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) August 10, 2019
This is crazy. So Hollywood protested against hate, guns & violence but makes a hateful movie stalking & killing “Deplorables” with guns. Titled “The Hunt” as if they were hunting down & killing animals.
Liberal Democrats are revealing who they are. “HATE”https://t.co/smJ6rS68w8
— Diamond and Silk® (@DiamondandSilk) August 9, 2019
We’re talking about glorifying murdering fellow Americans because of how they think politically (right after two mass shootings). This wasn’t a movie for entertainment it was a call to arms. #FoxandFriends @UniversalPics #TheHunt
— Teresa † ن (@BlackIrishI) August 11, 2019
I’ll freely admit one could reasonably see a satire being made about rich liberals hunting “MAGA types” that would actually send some sort of incisive message about where we are in America in 2019.
However, I don’t believe “The Hunt” is that movie. I haven’t seen it — and presumably won’t for quite some time — but its trailer seems to revel in a type of torture pornography in which those “MAGA types” seem to be taking the brunt of the torture.
It’s like those 1980s teen slasher films: Sure, the bad guy eventually got his, but not before he gruesomely dismembered a lot of young people and established some anti-hero cred. Need proof? Quick: Name any character in the “Friday the 13th” series not named Jason Voorhees.
I’d also argue that the positionality of Hollywood isn’t such that they’re the kind of people who could plausibly make this satire. This is a movie about liberal elites hunting “deplorables” … that’s being churned out by an industry run by liberal elites.
I don’t quite see how the same Hollywood that got themselves all worked up about “The Green Book” winning Best Picture at the Oscars somehow didn’t get how this could be a problem until a few mass shootings made “The Hunt” look like the crass enterprise that it is.
There aren’t any definite plans for what will happen to “The Hunt” in the future. It could get dropped into theaters at a later date or put onto streaming services.
My guess is that Universal won’t, as Roger Ebert liked to suggest when he encountered a stinker, take the film stock and cut it into free ukulele picks for the poor.
We’ll eventually see “The Hunt” somehow. Well, maybe not us, per se, but someone will. My guess is that people end up turning it off after five minutes on Netflix. That’s because satire is supposed to be funny and subtle and this, well, doesn’t seem to fit the bill.
Just read to those leaden lines to yourself: “They’re not human beings.” “Did anyone see what our ratf—-r-in-chief just did?” “At least The Hunt’s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.”
Michael Bay applies a lighter touch to things.
Before “The Hunt” got pulled, according to The Hollywood Reporter, one Universal executive said that the film “is meant to show what a stupid, crazy world we live in.”
“It might even be more powerful now,” he said.
As an object lesson, yes — “The Hunt” shows exactly “what a stupid, crazy world we live in,” although probably not as intended. Same with it being “more powerful now.” And again, not as intended.
Oh, to have the complete self-confidence and complete lack of self-awareness of a mediocre Hollywood executive.
CORRECTION, Aug. 11, 2019: As originally published, this commentary implied that Freddy Krueger was a character in the “Friday the 13th” film series. While he did appear in one (“Freddy vs. Jason,” the 11th film in the series), Krueger was the featured character in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. This commentary has been corrected to include Jason Voorhees, the masked serial killer made famous in “Friday the 13th.”
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