Bowing to pressure from pissed-off public personas and an ill-informed president, Universal has officially canceled the release of Blumhouse’s The Hunt, which was due to hit theaters on September 27th. Here’s Universal’s statement:
For those who don’t know, The Hunt is a thriller about a group of red-state citizens who are hunted by rich liberal antagonists. The movie was directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof.
This cancelation comes after Universal decided to halt all marketing for the film in the wake of mass shootings in Ohio, Texas and California. But there’s more to this story than that. Ever the instigator, The Hunt has caused furor with President Trump, who recently called Hollywood racist and claimed that the movie industry was dangerous for America. This coming from a man who has publicly endangered immigrants, countless people of color, liberals, media personalities, politicians, LGBTQ Americans and many, many more.
The complaining about the film from Trump and other people on the right has only ratcheted up in the last few days. While Universal will claim their decision is due to respect for the victims of these horrible shootings, it’s obvious that they are giving into protests from President Trump and his followers. This feels like a studio trying to avoid controversy and the rage of a Twitter-happy commander-in-chief.
Let’s make this clear: The Hunt is satire. Satire will often be uncomfortable but it’s never to be taken completely seriously and definitely not at face-value. Satire buries messages deeper than the surface. It’s rarely black-and-white. While I haven’t seen The Hunt (and I guess I never will…) I doubt this was a Democratic wet dream. But certain people are cherry-picking the film’s plot and accusing it of endorsing murder. Again: satire is intended to ruffle feathers and is trying to protest and poke fun at society, on both sides of the aisle. That truth is being lost on many. George Orwell is spinning in his grave.
The news is upsetting for many reasons but mostly because of Trump’s insistence on injecting himself into matters that don’t concern him. It’s mind-boggling to see the literal president of our nation doing this, yet again. He can’t help himself. His claims are outrageous for many reasons: his ignorance about movies and storytelling, his complete rejection of facts, his reliance on Fox and other right-wing outlets for “news” and his claim that Hollywood is bad for America. You have to remember that this isn’t just some TV personality claiming that filmmakers and performers are dangerous. This is the biggest, most important public figure in the world saying it. And as the rise in nationalist and white supremacist crimes has shown, there are many unhinged people who listen to Donald Trump. He can tweet from the Oval Office all he wants, seemingly free from consequence. But his words have an effect on people, people who will do anything to combat these “dangerous” people. You would hope someone — anyone! — would pull our president aside and try to show him the severity and gravity of his actions and words. But no one does. No one cares. No one is righting the wrongs or steering this ship.
I just pray that some nut job isn’t listening to Trump’s hissy fit about The Hunt and loading up on body armor and purchasing a ticket to L.A. It’s a scary, scary thought but it’s one that must be considered. This is the world we live in.
Universal’s decision to halt The Hunt leaves a lot of question marks: will it ever be released? Will it debut on a streaming service instead? Will it still come out in theaters at a much later date?
Most importantly: is this a slippery slope? Will other studios follow in the footsteps of Universal and cancel movies for fear of upsetting President Trump and his gun-happy followers? Will we see others cave to the demands of the right? That’s very, very likely.
The Hunt might be satire but our current political climate is starting to feel downright dystopian.