Review: THE HUNT

“The Hunt” is another in a long line of loose adaptations of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” Aside from some clever work by Betty Gilpin (see Netflix’ “GLOW”), this nasty little film provides mild thrills and occasional chuckles.

Tell me you’ve heard (or seen) this one before: twelve strangers awaken in a clearing in a weird, unknown rural area having no idea how they got there or why. In minutes, it becomes evident that they’re being hunted. One-by-one, they fall victim to unseen attackers. But the killers weren’t counting on one of the prey turning the tables. The hunters are about to become the hunted.

“The Hunt” is directed by Craig Zobel, who gave us 2012’s “Compliance,” and the entertaining 2007 indie “Great World of Sound.” The problem isn’t with Zobel’s directing choices; instead, this is a picture that is almost too familiar ever to be anything more than weakly derivative. Because this adaptation is written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the duo behind HBO’s outstanding “Watchmen,” you’d think that something new would have been injected into the story to cause the viewer to sit up and take notice.

The overt political tomfoolery afoot in “The Hunt” almost does the trick. The hunters are one political persuasion, and the prey is another. This political polarization reminiscent of the current real-world climate had great potential, and it was in that material that producers eked out some free media exposure. Last year, “The Hunt” was pulled from release out of concern that its message would be insensitive, given the tragic shootings in Dayton and El Paso.

In keeping with the sardonic tone of this affair, laughs do come, exposing the hunters as tone-deaf. However, the shallowness of these broad jokes only serves to undermine the film’s central premise: the basis for the hunt is never credible.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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