The most controversial movie of last year is back and ready to disappoint.
In July, 2019, Universal Studios released the trailer for The Hunt, a horror comedy film whose premise initially appeared to be a political variation on the premise of the classic 1924 people hunting people short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” The first trailer for The Hunt, sold the movie as a political polemic where coastal elite liberals preyed on blue-collar Trump voters for sport.
In early August, FOX News covered the first The Hunt trailer, casting it as an outrageous insult to Trump supporters. Subsequently, Trump lashed out at “racist” Hollywood liberals. People guessed the puzzling accusation of racism was connected to The Hunt. The next day, Universal cancelled The Hunt release—but, according to an Indie Wire report, Trump’s tweet didn’t cause the movie to be pulled.
This month, The Hunt returned with a new marketing campaign and trailer. While the marketing exploits the 2019 controversy, the trailer seems designed to squelch political outrage by revealing what seems like a major plot twist: the movie’s titular hunt is fake.
The new The Hunt trailer hints that well-intentioned liberals act out the hunt to teach some sort of lesson about the importance of diversity, coexistence and so forth. It seems also that the plan has gone off the rails and the hunt has become truly deadly either because of a rogue organizer or an embittered hunted MAGA lady. Or they’re possibly both at fault.
While the series of surprise plot points aren’t clear from the trailer, there’s no ambiguity about The Hunt’s satirical targets: identity politics, cancel culture and white guilt. Well, satire’s probably the wrong word for what seems to be at play in The Hunt. They’re mining tiresome bromides about liberals for cheap laughs, from a joke about a wealthy-looking actor who plays a refugee but identifies as white to the closing punchline “white people. We’re the worst.”
The Hunt co-writer Damon Lindelof inserted a similar liberal self-loathing vibe into his little-watched HBO show Watchmen. Watchmen took place a decade-plus into a liberal-ruled dystopian America where police are hamstrung by overly-restrictive gun regulations and a limited, means-tested reparations program worsens racial tensions.
Lindelof calls himself a liberal but his arguments seem deeply conservative. Well-intentioned government programs can’t work. The status quo is set in stone and attempts at change will either fail or make things worse. Liberals are pompous and hypocritical and their ideas need to be held in check by an equal countervailing conservative force. Conservatives are crazy but the other side is just as bad.
But while The Hunt’s politics are tepid and confused, there’s a far worse problem portended in the trailer: this is going to be an awful movie. It’s going to be that Damon Lindelof/JJ Abrams mystery box storytelling. There’s no story, characterization or suspense, just mysteries, partial revelations, plot twists and inevitable loose ends.