It’s a truism that horror, science fiction, and exploitation films often wrestle with a society’s ills earlier and more frankly than other genres, even if they dress the problem up in a Godzilla suit. We’re facing our fair share of brand new, atom-bomb-class impending catastrophes today, but one of America’s biggest problems was already ancient when Paul sat down to drop Timothy a line, and, judging from the trailer, The Hunt is aiming to shoot it in the lungs with an arrow. The rest of cinema hasn’t exactly ignored greed or money as a subject: from President Business all the way back to Eisenstein’s smoke-filled rooms, cinema’s got no shortage of greedy capitalist villains. But there have been far fewer films that have played around with the unpleasant fact that, as a general rule, the wealthiest people in the world don’t see, think about, or treat the rest of us like human beings. Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You recently literalized this for a science-fiction take in which capitalists develop an alarming solution to building the workforce of tomorrow, and now director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are chiming in from the horror section, as the trailer for The Hunt makes clear:
Those first 30 seconds are a nicely condensed version of the “something about this everyday experience seems a little off” scene that is obligatory in this kind of “vast conspiracy” movie, and GLOW’s Betty Gilpin looks to be making a credible bid at becoming an action star. But clearly the main attraction here is going to be Hilary Swank sneering her way through lines like “They’re not human beings,” or jamming a spike heel into some poor schmuck’s eye socket before returning to her private room on her private plane to get some private sleep. Judging from the trailer, she’s got a real talent for it! As for the hunt aspect of The Hunt, it looks like a fine riff on the nearly foolproof premise of humans-hunting-humans-for-sport that propels The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and The Most Dangerous Game. What’s interesting about The Hunt is that it doesn’t feel the need to distance itself from its central metaphor. The killers aren’t European aristocrats like Zaroff and they didn’t need an apocalypse to take power: They’re already here, raising insulin prices, poisoning schoolchildren, and building for-profit detention camps, and they always have been. Cue the Marshall Tucker Band.