The Hunt
The Hunt Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Its plot may sound like an episode from ‘Black Mirror’, but ‘The Hunt’ has stirred up the conservatives with uncontrolled restraint, with US President Donald Trump being the film’s most vocal – and high profile – critic.

It’s the film that Trump doesn’t want the world to see and it is finally readying for release, months after Universal pulled it from its roster, following widespread backlash and a spate of mass shootings in the US.

Here’s a look at why the Blumhouse film, which is now set to release on March 13 in the US, has the conservatives all riled up:

Killing for pleasure

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The Hunt

Produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse, ‘The Hunt’ has Oscar winner Hillary Swank in the lead, along with Betty Gilpin. According to the film’s official synopsis, 12 strangers wake up in a clearing with no memory of how they got there or where they are. In the trailer, elitists are gathering in a remote location to hunt these humans for sport.

The trailer has been widely interpreted as Republicans being the ‘elitists’, and even though it did not mention them by name, the film’s subject caught the attention of President Trump last August, prompting him to condemn Hollywood during a press briefing. Later that day, President used social media to voice his concern through a series of tweets.

“Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate! They like to call themselves “Elite,” but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order....,” he posted on Twitter, continuing: “to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”

The film controversy echoed on social media as well at the time, with people tweeting about the insensitivity of making such a project at a time when America had been reeling from a spate of mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California last year.

“This is beyond politics, no movies about hunting anyone. And before you defend this movie, think if it was about hunting another group besides red-state people. Let’s not be hypocrites, hunting people is not appropriate entertainment, which really shouldn’t have to be said,” tweeted Grace Randolph.

The Defense

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The makers of the film, including director Craig Zobel and writer Damon Lindelof, have both come out in defense of ‘The Hunt’.

In an interview with Variety, Jason Blum stated that everybody had got it wrong, “because no one had seen the movie.”

“It was the most talked about movie that no one has ever seen. So what both of us [Lindelof and him] were very eager for people to see the movie and realise that the movie is 100 per cent satire and pokes fun at both sides equally. We wanted to see that represented in what people were writing about, but again, they couldn’t because no one had seen it,” said Blum.

“We’re not concerned and our hope is that if the president talks about the movie again, it’s because he’s seen it versus what he is being told by others,” Lindelof added in the same interview.

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Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker," a movie he says is about "childhood trauma, gun violence, isolation and mental health." (Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.) Image Credit: TNS

Comparisons to the ‘Joker’ are also inevitable, which – despite sweeping up the awards for the Best Actor category for Joaquin Phoenix – drew widespread criticism as well for glorifying violence.

“The more interesting conversation is about how the best movies reflect our times. Bong Joon Ho said that himself [at the Oscars]. He noted that the best creativity is personal. These are the things that we were thinking about and writing about. More important, we feel the timing is absolutely right to have a conversation about a movie that is reflecting through a very absurdist lens a divided country where we believe the worst in each other. This movie is a cautionary tale for what happens when this gets carried out to its extreme,” Lindelof told Variety.

While some critics, who have seen the press previews have come out in defense of the Universal project on social media, it’s fate will be revealed when the film goes on general release in March.

A UAE release date for ‘The Hunt’ was not available at the time.