Civil War as Entertainment

Universal Pictures has produced a film called The Hunt (originally titled Red State vs. Blue State), which begins with rich liberals capturing “deplorables” from red states to hunt down and murder. If you lived in Dayton, Ohio, you might consider this a realistic premise, although I don’t think that is what the filmmakers had in mind. This is the trailer; if I interpret it correctly, the “deplorables” fight back and win what looks like a civil war. In that respect, one might say that the film is realistic.

Hollywood Reporter headlines: “Ads Pulled for Gory Universal Thriller ‘The Hunt’ in Wake of Mass Shootings.”

In the wake of a trio of deadly massacres, the studio is evaluating its strategy for the R-rated Blumhouse satire in which elites stalk “deplorables.”

“Did anyone see what our ratfucker-in-chief just did?” one character asks early in the screenplay for The Hunt, a Universal Pictures thriller set to open Sept. 27. Another responds: “At least The Hunt’s coming up. Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.”

Hollywood Reporter repeatedly refers to the film as a “satire.” Apparently standards for satire have slipped over the years. More:

In the aftermath of mass shootings within days of one another that shocked and traumatized the nation, Universal is re-evaluating its strategy for the certain-to-be-controversial satire. The violent, R-rated film from producer Jason Blum’s Blumhouse follows a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.

Over the Aug. 3 weekend, ESPN pulled an ad for the film that it had previously cleared, while AMC ran the spot during the season premiere of its drama The Preacher. It’s unclear whether the ads were identical, but the one yanked by ESPN opened with a sound resembling an emergency broadcast signal. A rep for ESPN parent Disney declined to comment on the move, but an ESPN source says no spots for the film will appear on the network in the coming weeks.

The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin from GLOW and Hilary Swank, representing opposite sides of the political divide. It features guns blazing along with other ultra-violent killings as the elites pick off their prey. The script from Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse reviewed by The Hollywood Reporter revolves around third-rail political themes.

It is hard to say these days what “third-rail political themes” might be. Many on Twitter and other social media, along with mobs assembled–for example–on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s front lawn, are demanding that conservatives be murdered. Does echoing such homicidal intent in a movie constitute “satire”?

Hollywood Reporter points out that the track record of films analogous to The Hunt is not promising:

From a business perspective, The Hunt presents a gamble for Universal in these divided times. The satire Assassination Nation, which also pitted the woke versus the unwoke in uber-violent fashion, represented the top sale at Sundance 2018 at $10 million. But the film fizzled upon its release later that year, earning just $2 million with no international rollout. Says one person involved with that film, “We thought people would get the joke.”

Joke? What joke? Back to The Hunt:

The script for The Hunt features the red-state characters wearing trucker hats and cowboy shirts, with one bragging about owning seven guns because it’s his constitutional right. The blue-state characters — some equally adept with firearms — explain that they picked their targets because they expressed anti-choice positions or used the N-word on Twitter. “War is war,” says one character after shoving a stiletto heel through the eye of a denim-clad hillbilly.

“Employees in different departments were questioning the wisdom of making such a movie in these times,” says one filmmaker with ties to Universal. “In light of the horrific [recent shootings], is this not the most craven, irresponsible, dangerous exploitation?”

Heh. I suppose it is. But when has that ever stopped Hollywood? I just hope that my reading of the trailer is correct, and the “deplorables” go from hunted to hunter.

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