Universal Pictures has announced a new release date of March 13 for its contentious new thriller The Hunt. Described as a “satirical” and “controversial political thriller,” director Craig Zobel’s movie, based on the 1924 Richard Connell short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” was originally scheduled to premiere in September, but its release was canceled in August following a spate of mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio. Adding a political element to Connell’s oft-adapted story, The Hunt features coastal elites hunting “deplorables” and drew considerable conservative backlash, including several tweets from Donald Trump, who used it as an occasion to call the members of “liberal Hollywood” the “true Racists.”
Rather than running from that controversy, Universal Pictures has worked it into the movie’s ad campaign. The new trailer for The Hunt characterizes it as “the most talked-about movie of the year […] that no one’s actually seen,” while doing away with lines like “We paid for everything, so this country belongs to us.” In the original trailer, The Hunt star Hilary Swank, dressed like an urban elite, says those words against the backdrop of a high-rise office building. She also says “they’re not human beings” as the trailer cuts to a rural scene with people dressed in outdoorsy apparel.
The cuts and lines featured in the new trailer (above) aren’t necessarily less on the nose, but they indicate a slight shift in positioning, perhaps with stronger hints that the part about liberal elites hunting for sport might not be all that it seems. Instead, the new trailer features a new set of puzzlers, like “I’m not playing an Arab refugee. I identify as white. I think that’s problematic too, in some way.” Or “What kind of sick people would even think of something like that? White people. They’re the worst.”
The hope seems to be that potential moviegoers take this bait and give the film a chance. The creators have emphasized that they’re not trying to take sides, expressing frustration over its mischaracterization in the media. “We think the movie may actually, ironically, bring people together,” said screenwriter Damon Lindelof in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.