The Most Important Film Of 2019

The Hunt: Why Universal’s average looking horror movie just became one of the most important films of 2019.

Important Film Of 2019? The Hunt: Why Universal’s average looking horror movie just became one of the most important films of 2019.

You know what movie I’m most excited for from this year? No, it isn’t Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. No, it isn’t Crawl. No, it isn’t Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or It Chapter Two, or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, or Joker, or Zombieland 2, or… you get the idea.

While all of those were pretty high on my priority list this year, as well as some previously released movies, they’ve all taken a backseat to one film. And, funny thing is, it isn’t even a film I was all that interested in seeing originally.

2019’s number one film for me has fast become the Craig Zobel directed, Damon Lindelof written satirical horror/thriller The Hunt. And not even because I think it looks all that good. Truthfully, I don’t really think it looks all that good. The premise, which is pretty much The Most Dangerous Game but updated for modern audiences, was old hat long before now (people killing people for sport is the premise for, let’s not forgot, the wildly successful Hunger Games franchise, Battle Royale, The Running Man…). It stars literally no one I’ve got any real investment in, I mean, Hillary Swank is okay, and but Glen Howerton can’t be anyone but Dennis Reynolds for me at this point, and Emma Roberts is… eh. Lindelof is the man responsible for Cowboys vs Aliens, Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness, so his involvement is not what I would call a sure thing. The director made 2012’s Compliance, an interesting, but somewhat dull, thriller that most people, including me, forgot exists.  On the surface of it, The Hunt is not even a blip on my radar.

However, as you may or may not know, The Hunt just got shelved.

Universal Pictures made the decision to shelve the movie because, as they put it, “now is not the right time to release this film”. This is claimed, by some, to be out of respect for the horrific tragedies of El Paso and Dayton earlier this month. However, if that were the case, I’d assume they’d also be cancelling the likes of Hobbs and Shaw, in which, in just one of many giant set-pieces, a gun-fight turned car chase takes place of the streets of London…

The important truth is, and we all know it is the truth despite no one admitting it, that Universal have pulled The Hunt from release because of one President Donald Trump. Trump decided to attack the film (although he left it unnamed, it was heavily implied to be The Hunt) during one of his many toddler tantrums on Twitter. And while the scary part is Trump’s attack likely meant any screening of the film would be under the threat of yet another orange-Cheeto inspired mass murder, I can’t help but feel an element of sadness at the idea that we have reached a point now where art, high or low, is potentially banned from the public on the whims of racist, hate-mongering morons who would rather endanger the lives of the people they claim to represent in an attempt to deflect than they would admit maybe, just maybe, their spiteful, violent rhetoric, as shouted from their very high platform, has had a harmful effect.

I don’t blame Universal for their decision. After all, this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction of the like we saw with Disney and James Gunn. Allowing the film to be released after it has been singled out by the man whose previous words have quite literally lead to the deaths of over 20 people is not a sensible choice. But, doesn’t it suck that they were even put in this position?

What makes this entire thing even more bizarre though (as if it weren’t bizarre enough already) is the supposed “reasoning” behind the outrage. Apparently, the film is an example of liberal Hollywood elite types wanting to kill Trump supporters, and that’s the important problem.

Now, removing, for a second, that the only reference to Trump supporters specifically, as far as I can see, is in the use of the term “deplorables”, which, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have recognized as a term for Trump supporters anymore than just something rich arseholes might call the “plebs” – and maybe that’s just me being dense (Hillary Clinton did call them that apparently… because she’s an idiot) but there it is – the perceived “MAGA-types” in the film are the ones being hunted, and are also the good guys.

It’s sort of like waking up and deciding you hate Star Wars because the Empire want to wipe out the Rebellion and kill Luke Skywalker and you relate to the Rebellion and Luke Skywalker, so this important movie must be bad or something…

Like, you understand the Empire are the bad guys, right? You’re not supposed to side with them! And you’re not supposed to side with the hunters in The Hunt, they’re the villains. It’s satire, sure, but as a satire it appears, from the promotional material and information online, that its sights are set firmly at taking on and poking fun at the so-called “liberal elite”. It’s essentially suggesting that we liberals like to claim to be for tolerance and fairness, but really, we just want to kill anyone with an opposing view. Surely that’s something opposition of liberal viewpoints could get behind?

Many people have blamed violent movies for violence in society over the years. The argument is not a new one. And, much like the case made for anti-vaxxers, and those who don’t believe in climate-change, no amount of study or evidence ever seems to deter them. And while, admittedly, the link between violence in movies and violence in society is somewhat unclear, a big portion of evidence, and a little sprinkling of common sense, suggests it’s pretty small, if it’s there at all.

It doesn’t matter that violence was a thing long before movies existed. It doesn’t matter that violence was a thing longer before most people could even read! Sometimes people just need something to pin their blame to, and when you’ve got violence on the screen, I guess it’s as easy a scapegoat as ever.

For the record, my stance has always been; if you’re capable of murdering someone after you watched a movie, you were probably capable of murdering someone before you watched it. Movies don’t make people killers.

The truth of the matter is that if no one had said anything then The Hunt would have come out, likely done so-so at the box office and then everyone would have forgotten all about it in a year, but now we’re in this strange place where it’s arguably the most talked about and important movie of the year, and no one has even seen it year. We’re all just lurching wildly to conclusions made up of bits of the picture, myself included. But I’d certainly rather watch it and make up my own mind than I would be denied the choice of evening deciding what I think for myself.

Universal may have pulled The Hunt from release for the reason they state, or for the reason I’ve deduced… it could even be for both. But, whatever the reason, I sincerely hope it gets an online release or some other form of distribution, because I don’t want to live in a world where hate triumphs and can’t be called out and dissected through art, for fear of punishment or worse. And if my view can help prove that in some small way, then I’m all for it. And that’s why The Hunt is my most anticipated movie. It might not be high art… it might not even be a particularly good movie, but it just became one hell of an important one.

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Alex Secker is a writer/director/editor. His debut feature film, the micro-budget thriller Follow the Crows, won Best Independent Film at the Global Film Festival Awards, while his stage-play, The Door, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 Swinge Festival.