For a genre that has an ancient origin, horror continues to stay relevant across eras and cultures. The universality and subjectiveness of fear plays an important role in this as it engulfs every generation and community differently. This is also why horror has a rich history of being used for social commentary. It evolves to explore and express these fears innovatively as times change.
But the relevance of the genre can be seen more than ever in the current period. And Blumhouse leads this recent horror renaissance by producing low-budget genre films that are both socially and politically aware. After all, the studio has gems like ‘Get Out‘ and ‘The Purge’ to its credit. But their latest endeavour, ‘The Hunt’ is as controversial as it gets with its portrayal of American politics.
The film, directed by Craig Zobel and co-written by Damon Lindelof, is currently using the controversy for its marketing. It calls itself “The most talked about movie that no one’s actually seen.” And for all the right reasons too. The film was originally supposed to release back in September 2019, but its trailer caused such a stir that even Donald Trump wasn’t happy with it. What is it about? Well, think ‘Hunger Games’ meets ‘The Purge’, but about liberals and conservatives.
‘The Hunt’ centers around “a private hunting experience” for the liberal elites that hunt 12 “deplorables” in a secret manor. The film explores a red state vs blue state scenario, supposedly portraying liberal elites as hunters and blue-collar conservatives as victims. The reason for the uproar was, of course, related to the prevalence of violence in the United States, along with the exploitative class politics. In case you’re wondering what inspired something as gruesome as ‘The Hunt’, we’re here to help. Here’s everything you need to know.
Is ‘The Hunt’ a True Story?
While ‘The Hunt’ very obviously serves as a sociopolitical commentary on American politics, it is not based on a true story. However, the themes it explores feel too close to home, due to which the film was initially cancelled, only to be released this year. After all, the trailer of the violent satire came out in August 2019, just around the time of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
There were wide scale protests against gun violence and white supremacism. One can definitely make real-life links to the themes the film explores as it attempts to critique both violence and white supremacy. And releasing ‘The Hunt’ around the time felt insensitive, irresponsible and even exploitative. But maybe, it’s finally time now.
In reality, ‘The Hunt’ is actually based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell, titled, ‘The Most Dangerous Game‘. The story received widespread critical acclaim over the years for the themes it explores. It is also been labelled the “most popular short story ever written in English”. Interestingly, the story continues to stay relevant even after almost a century after Connell wrote it. Read on to find out why, and of course, its connection to ‘The Hunt’.
The Most Dangerous Game
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ centers around Sanger Rainsford, a big-game hunter, who finds himself in an isolated Caribbean island owned by Zaroff, a rich aristocrat who hunts human as a sport. What makes the story interesting is that it critiques power and wealth, making Zaroff some sort of psychopath. But it also looks at how any one of us could be one because of the perverting effects of boredom and money. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In Connell’s story, Zaroff interestingly uses reason to make Rainsford understand why he hunts men. According to him, it is the most interesting game to hunt because men can reason and therefore provide a challenge that he cannot expect from other animals. He also states that he targets “the scum of the earth”. And simultaneously explores the concept of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” in a twisted way, stating, “life is for the strong”.
Over the years, ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ has been adapted numerous times. But what makes each adaptation historically relevant is that it serves as a commentary on the era it is made in. A 1945 adaptation titled, ‘A Game of Death’, released months after the World War II, reimagined the hunter as a German Nazi.
Another adaptation titled ‘The Woman Hunt’ was released in 1972, around the women’s liberation movement. In this adaptation, as the title suggests, a group of rich men kidnapped young women to take them to an island and hunt them.
Then there was, ‘Hard Target’, which released in 1993, and explored the victims as homeless Vietnam veterans. Thus, it makes sense that the latest adaptation of the story follows the path laid out by films like ‘Hunger Games’, and explores capitalism, class divide, white supremacy and gun violence.
‘The Hunt’ can be seen as a satire on liberal elites who talk about equality and empowerment but treat people who don’t agree with them inhumanely. It also satirizes conservatives who have fueled capitalism over the years. In fact, in an interview with Variety, Zobel stated, “Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally”.
But how probable is it for humans to hunt humans in real-life? With the excessive violence and exploitation our society has experienced over the past decades, it actually does not seem too far-fetched. Similar cases have, in fact, already taken place in the past.
Interestingly, in early 1980s, a serial killer named Robert Hansen kidnapped women and hunted them in Knik River Valley in Alaska. He’s known to have assaulted and raped around 30 women, and murdered at least 17. This becomes relevant in the context of the women’s liberation movement that was taking place around the time.
Something similar was witnessed even around the time of Spanish Civil War when wealthy landowners hunted landless peasants. This was considered to be an extension of the White Terror around the time. So is it possible that similar gruesome events take place in the future as well? Unfortunately, according to David Wright, they probably can.
Wright, a senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Central Lancashire, predicted in his 2016 report that human hunting will become a practice of the ultra-rich from around 2100s, and end up being part of dark tourism by 2200s. He supported this claim by discussing man’s obsession with death, and ancient practices of gladiator fights. He also stated the probability of it happening in a future which would be plagued by overpopulation and poverty. ‘The Hunt’, then, may actually be much closer to reality than we think it is.
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