The controversy around Trump supporter shooting movie The Hunt, explained

The Hillary Swank and Betty Gilpin film pitting rich elites against right-leaning "normal people" has been pulled – here's why

The hunt

Billed as the story of 12 strangers hunted by a group of “globalist elites”, The Hunt has attracted a whole heap more attention than you might expect from a satirical horror flick.

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The unreleased movie, starring Hillary Swank and GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, has quickly become the centre of a political debate involving the President of the United States. Why? Well, the film essentially portrays liberal elites hunting down Donald Trump supporters.

And now, following several mass US shootings unrelated to The Hunt, filmmakers Universal have announced that the movie’s release – originally set for 27th September – has been shelved indefinitely.

Why did The Hunt get pulled?

A lot of the reason lends itself to fallout from the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. These massacres, occurring 13 hours apart on 4th August, left more than 30 people dead and many more injured.

Unsurprisingly, Universal halted the film’s marketing following these tragedies, its gun-heavy trailer pulled after some “thoughtful consideration”, according to a statement.

Then, on Saturday 10th August, Universal cancelled plans to release The Hunt. This doesn’t necessarily mean the film won’t see the big screen in future – the actual movie itself hasn’t been cancelled, just its opening date.

Announcing the news, the studio didn’t give an exact reason behind the change, simply stating “we understand that now is not the right time to release this film”.

However, the announcement came after some particularly loaded tweets from – who else? – Donald Trump.

What have Donald Trump and critics of The Hunt said?

First thing you should know: The Hunt was controversial even before it was shelved. Although the film’s official synopsis outlined the story would follow a group of people hunted by “rich elites” at a remote “Manor House” facility, its trailer (see below) suggested the film would portray wealthy liberals hunting “normal” right-leaning people for sport.

The trailer also referred to the hunted group as “deplorables”,  currently a barbed term in the US. That’s because during the 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton remarked: “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call ‘the basket of deplorables’”.

The inclusion of the term in The Hunt led many people to accuse the film of portraying liberals as killing Tump supporters specifically.

Although The Hunt appeared to depict these ‘Trump supporters’ as characters we should sympathise with – especially compared to Hillary Swank’s President Snow-style “globalist” character – many US conservatives opposed the film’s release.

While Donald Trump didn’t cite The Hunt in name, he tweeted “the movie coming out” was made to “inflame and cause chaos”.

Trump appeared to deliver another veiled blow to the film a few hours after the tweets, telling reporters: “Hollywood, I don’t call them the elites. I think the elites are the people they go after in many cases. But Hollywood is really terrible.

“What they’re doing, with the kind of movie they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.”

So, why did Trump take so much interest in The Hunt – a relatively small Hollywood feature with a budget on $18 million (Avengers: Endgame, by contrast, had a budget of $356 million)? It could be significant that hours before Trump’s tweet, the controversy surrounding The Hunt was covered extensively on Fox News, one of the president’s favourite channels.

“After all the shootings, though, just the timing of this,” co-host of Fox & Friends Ainsley Earhardt said on air. “I don’t know. These are people, they’re hunting down people. That’s the premise of this.”

“At the end of the day, [the elites] look at us as deplorables,” guest Zachery Ty Bryan added. “They look at us as racists and bigoted evil people. When you can dehumanize a side or a group that supports Trump in this case…you can do anything, so why not hunt them like you would animals?”

Maria Bartiromo, a Fox anchor who has interviewed the president on many occasions, added: “I’m just wondering if it’s going to encourage more backlash against conservatives. Is it another call to act? It’s crazy.”

Another host Lou Dobbs commented: “This is fiction, but it sounds a little like reality, doesn’t it?”

What has the reaction to The Hunt’s shelving been?

While the film’s cast have been relatively quiet on the issue, star Hilary Swank did offer a brief comment at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, according to Variety.

Saying she wouldn’t answer questions on The Hunt, Swank added: “No one’s seen the film. You can’t really have a conversation about it without understanding what it’s about.”

Donald Trump has yet to make a comment about the release date’s cancellation.

Will The Hunt ever be released in cinemas?

Although critics have attacked the ‘liberals killing Trump supporters’ storyline, it’s currently not clear how seriously the movie takes this plot point – director Craig Zobel described The Hunt on Twitter (before the El Paso and Dayton shootings) as “not super dark” and only a “fun, funny action movie”.

Given that we don’t exactly know how politically-charged the film is, there’s a chance The Hunt could be released at a later date – perhaps also in the UK – if the US debate around gun laws subsides. However, bearing in mind the impending political campaigns for the 2020 US election, this seems unlikely.

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All things considered, it looks like hunting season is over.