Universal and Blumhouse Productions’ action-thriller-satire The Hunt has been the subject of its fair share of controversy dating back to last summer. That’s when, in the wake of the tragic mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, the film’s “liberals hunt conservatives” premise led the studio to bump its release date by some six months. The film was subsequently the target of much debate in the media, with even President Trump apparently getting in on the act (although he never specifically referred to the film by name in his comments).
But now that the film is out, it is clear that The Hunt is satirizing the very us vs. them mindset that helped to ignite the controversy over it in the first place. The Hunt’s Red State conservatives and Blue State liberals are mostly extreme caricatures, a trollbot’s idea of what our political divide looks like. Produced by Jason Blum, directed by Craig Zobel, and written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, The Hunt holds a ghastly mirror up to us and asks, what if?
Of course, coming as it does in part from Lindelof — who is riding high these days on the recent success of his HBO Watchmen series — it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that there’s more to this hunt than at first meets the eye. We spoke to Lindelof about the surprises laced in the film’s script, what he and the team were hoping to say with The Hunt, and much more.
The Apolitical Will Inherit the Earth
The interesting thing about the Crystal character is that we eventually find out that she apparently was mistakenly chosen for the hunt; she happens to share the name of someone with more extreme political views. And in the end, she is triumphant against those who hunted her, including Hilary Swank’s character, an ex-highflying corporate type who is the ringleader of the hunters. But Crystal is the one character in The Hunt whose political leanings we never really get a sense of.
“It’s possible that she is not a political character,” explains Lindelof. “She clearly identifies as someone who doesn’t want to talk about politics. And that is indicative of a vast number of people who live in this country. We live in a bubble. We consume the media that we consume. And for some of us on both sides, by the way, the political situation in the country is almost all we talk about. But for many, many others, they just don’t care. They care more about feeding their families or keeping their jobs or having to renew their license at the DMV. And the idea of what’s happening in Washington is just not of their concern. And I think that Crystal is a character that speaks for those people, who’s like, ‘Why do I have to pick a team? I’m on team me.’”
Sort of working as the flipside of the Crystal character is Swank’s Athena. We eventually learn that she didn’t start off as the crazed leader of a human hunting party, but rather saw her life and career ruined by a dumb, joking text message thread with her friends that went public. Whereas Crystal is apparently apolitical, Athena it seems is forced to take sides (very, very extreme sides, yes) due to the pressures of the sharply divided world around her. In so doing, she enters into a downward spiral and becomes the very thing people accused her of being when that text message thread went viral in the first place.
“The question that we were asking is, what happens to someone who gets accused of being a monster,” says Lindelof. “And not just accused of it but it’s believed about them. At a certain point do they just throw up their arms and say, ‘O.K., you want me to be a monster, then that is what I’ll be. If you believe that about me anyway, I might as well just do it.’ And does that speak to [the fact] that there was always a part of them that was already a monster? I think that’s the scariest part of humanity. We have this idea of people are born evil or they’re not born evil. When I find that, moving through life, people make good choices and they make bad choices. But the innate nature of their character is not something that’s predetermined.”
But the problem, according to Lindelof, is that people go on the defensive when they are accused of things, and it becomes very hard to be your best self in that moment.
“In Athena’s case, that becomes a justification for some very, very bad choices,” he says.
The Hunt is in theaters now.