[Update: 1:35pm ET, August 10, 2019] Universal Pictures has now withdrawn the scheduled release of its satirical thriller on September 27, The hunt, reports Deadline Hollywood. Here’s the statement from the studio:
While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for: The hunt, the studio has decided after careful consideration to cancel our plans to release the film. We stand behind our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in collaboration with bold and visionary creators, such as those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film .
Co-star Hilary Swank, who appeared at the Locarno film festival, declined to discuss The hunt or the controversy surrounding it, according to Variety. She did say, however, “No one has seen the movie. You can’t really talk about it without understanding what it’s about.”
My take: Swank is right that it’s a little unfair to pass judgment on a movie that few people have seen. Trailers are just marketing tools and can often be very different in tone from the actual movie. That said, this is probably a smart move on Universal’s part, given the current socio-political climate.
Original story 1:45 PM ET, August 8, 2019:
Deadline Hollywood reports that Universal Pictures has temporarily halted the marketing campaign for the upcoming satirical thriller. The hunt, in the wake of three recent mass shootings in the US that killed more than 30 people. the movie stars GLOWBetty Gilpin and Oscar winner Hilary Swank as two women from opposite ends of the political spectrum who prey on each other – essentially a modern update on the classic short story ‘The Most Dangerous Game’.
“Out of sensitivity to the focus on the country’s recent shooting tragedies, Universal Pictures and the filmmakers of The hunt have temporarily paused their marketing campaign and are reviewing its material as we go along,” a studio representative told Deadline.
Delays like this have become something of a Hollywood standard of procedure for the past 20+ years as the industry struggles with how to navigate the dark reality of gun violence in America. For example, in 1999, Buffy the Vampire Slayer the episode “Earshot” aired delayed in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre. Warner Bros. Delayed Release and Recut a Scene for the 2012 Movie mafia group because of the Aurora shooting. And last year, the television adaptation of heather was pushed back, re-cut and nearly canceled in light of the Parkland shooting. When writing about Universal’s decision with: The hunt, Deadline Notes even more examples – from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Collateral damage switch after September 11, 2001 and the 2017 death wish remake delayed after mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Written by LOST‘s Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, The hunt may have been prepared for controversy even before real tragedies occurred. The film is about 12 strangers who wake up in a clearing with no idea where they are or how they got there. They soon discover that they are “prey” at an exclusive resort called The Manor, where the… uber– realms come to hunt humans – though Hilary Swank’s high-end executive (who was the mastermind behind the whole thing) scoffs at the fact that they should hardly be considered “creatures.” It only gets really interesting when the “hunted” get their own weapons and fight back.
It’s not a particularly new idea since Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” was first published in 1924 and spawned numerous film and television interpretations of the basic concept over the following decades. But of course there is a twist in this case: the hunted are all from red states (“deplorables”), and the fighters are supposedly “liberals” – albeit from the super-righteous uber-rich variety. “We pay for everything so that the land is ours,” Swank’s character explains in the film’s trailer. Several teasers had previously aired on TV (including on CNN during the recent Democratic debates) and remain online (embedded below).
It’s worth noting that this character’s statement and her refusal to see the hunted humans as fully human beings are not even remotely representative of a liberal stance — nor a traditionally conservative stance.
Needless to say, Fox News has had a field day with the film’s story. We’ll wait and see for ourselves whether it ultimately works as satirical entertainment or not, and whether it indeed crosses cultural boundaries. As always ‘good taste’ can be very subjective The hunt better or worse than The robbery franchise, for example? (Jason Blum produced both, along with Out.) But given the current political climate marked by the greatest party tensions and a nation trying to simultaneously mourn and seek solutions after the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California, Universal’s decision to pull its marketing campaign seems like a wise business decision.
For now, The hunt will still open as originally scheduled on September 27, 2019.