Right-leaning websites expressed a measure of outrage in the summer of 2019 after details appeared to emerge about the content of the forthcoming Universal Pictures film "The Hunt."
PJ Media reported that "The Hunt" "depicts Trump supporters being hunted for sport by liberals," writing that:
Universal Pictures is set to release a thriller called The Hunt on September 27, which features left-wing 'elites' hunting Trump supporters for sport. In the past few days we’ve been hearing a lot about how Donald Trump’s rhetoric is apparently to blame for the El Paso shooting, yet Hollywood apparently lacked the foresight to think that a movie promoting violence against 'deplorables' might be in bad taste until after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, as only now is Universal rethinking their promotional strategy for the film.
The Epoch Times described "The Hunt" as "a movie showing liberals stalking supporters of President Donald Trump," claiming that "According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie’s script features blue-state characters choosing to hunt red-state characters who expressed pro-life positions or were deemed racist."
The conservative Blaze website similarly described "The Hunt" as a "horror film about liberal elitists hunting 'deplorables.'"
Based on two official trailers released by Aug. 8, as well as unconfirmed script details reported by The Hollywood Reporter (THR), "The Hunt" appears to be a violent horror or thriller movie with a significant measure of social commentary, including contemporary U.S. political references. That would be in keeping with previous Universal Pictures/Blumhouse productions, including "The Purge" franchise.
However, the ideology and political affiliation of the characters who hunt and kill what appear to be working-class people from largely rural areas remains unclear, despite the aforementioned websites' repeated and emphatic descriptions of them as "liberal" and "left-wing" elites. Notwithstanding the context of a fictional horror movie, it should be unnecessary to point out that hunting human beings for sport has never been a tenet of Enlightenment liberalism or modern-day American progressivism.
Equally, it should be obvious to any mature consumer of culture that a movie that portrays wealthy psychopaths paying to hunt and kill other human beings is not likely to reflect well on the wealthy psychopaths, despite PJ Media's claim that "The Hunt" actually "promotes violence against 'deplorables.'"
What We Know About "The Hunt"
The official Universal Pictures website for the film, which describes it as "a new mysterious social thriller," contains the following plot summary:
Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don't know they've been chosen ... for a very specific purpose ... The Hunt.
In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, a group of elites gathers for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt humans for sport. But the elites’ master plan is about to be derailed because one of the hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin, GLOW), knows The Hunters’ game better than they do. She turns the tables on the killers, picking them off, one by one, as she makes her way toward the mysterious woman (two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank) at the center of it all.
Universal Pictures has also issued two official trailers as of Aug. 8. The first was released on July 12 and took the form of a parody of a promotional video for "The Manor," a "private hunting experience" whereby wealthy customers could pay to hunt human beings. The second, more conventional trailer was released on July 30.
Neither trailer offered any insight into, or description of, the political ideology of the characters who run the human-hunting experience, although the second trailer did feature one of the characters (apparently one of those being hunted) delivering the following line: "Every year, a bunch of elites kidnap normal folk like us and hunt us for sport." Some of the characters being hunted identified themselves as hailing from Wyoming, Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida.
The official synopsis of the film also provided no insight into, or description of, the politics of the "hunters," although it, too, described them as "a group of elites."
However, THR cited several alleged components of the script of "The Hunt," which do offer such insights, if they are an accurate reflection of the film's final cut. In an article published on Aug. 6, THR cited unnamed sources in stating that Universal Pictures was re-evaluating their marketing and advertising strategy for the film in light of several mass shootings in the early days of August in the U.S. At least one of those massacres, at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart store, appeared to have been motivated by political ideology.
One source allegedly told THR that Universal Pictures had already withdrawn some advertisements from circulation, though other studio sources supposedly said such a proposal was still being discussed. THR also reported that ESPN had withdrawn from circulation a planned advertisement for "The Hunt" over the weekend of August 3-5. We asked Universal Pictures and ESPN whether they had each decided to withdraw such ads from circulation, but we received no response from either company in time for publication.
THR's article described "The Hunt" in ways that were reflected in subsequent coverage on right-leaning websites, reporting that the film "follows a dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals."
THR claimed to have seen the script for the film, which allegedly once had the title "Red State Vs. Blue State," adding: "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."
We asked Universal Pictures whether it could confirm the accuracy or authenticity of those elements of the script published by THR, but we did not receive a response in time for publication. It's unclear whether the script allegedly seen by THR was at an early stage of development, or a final draft, or whether those elements that suggest a liberal-conservative enmity between the characters made it into the final cut of the film itself.
Without having confirmation of those important details or being able to watch "The Hunt," we cannot confirm the accuracy of the claim that the movie features "liberal" or "left-wing" characters hunting "Trump supporters" for sport. As such, we are issuing a rating of "Unproven," until and unless such corroborating evidence becomes available.
On August 9, however, the studio announced they were canceling the film’s release.
As reported by The Associated Press, the film was eventually rescheduled for release on March 13, 2020.