The Hunt director Craig Zobel has spoken out in defense of the cancelled film. Universal and Blumhouse's horror-thriller wasn't on most people's radars a few weeks ago, with the studios having only just released a single trailer and a handful of photos for the movie. However, in the wake of the most recent U.S. mass shootings, the project became a lightning rod for controversy over its depictions of gun violence and story about wealthy "elites" hunting a group of working-class conservatives (who're even referred to as "deplorables" in the script).
Universal has since cancelled The Hunt's September release, saying in a statement they support the movie's creatives, but recognize "now is not the right time to release this film". Additional details about the thriller has since been released, shedding more light on its intended satirical tone and writers Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse's (The Leftovers) approach to ridiculing the current U.S. political divide. In the latest update, director Craig Zobel (another Leftovers veteran) is speaking out about the movie and its cancellation.
In response to a series of emailed questions from Variety, Zobel said The Hunt's politics have been misunderstood, explain "Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be". He went on to say his goal was to make a "fun, action thriller that satirized this moment in our culture - where we jump to assume we know someone’s beliefs because of which ‘team’ we think they’re on… and then start shouting at them", adding "This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time".
Zobel went on to address the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton in a subsequent answer, saying "I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton. These types of moments happen far too often. In the wake of these horrific events, we immediately considered what it meant for the timing of our film". He went on to express support for Universal's decision to cancel the movie's release after "inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold". In a separate statement to Variety, Universal contested some of the details from last week's report alleging The Hunt's test audiences expressed discomfort with the film's political references. The same report further claimed The Hunt's filmmakers received death threats after the pre-screening.
Because The Hunt wasn't screened for critics ahead of its cancellation (and test audiences aren't allowed to reveal their responses in public), no one's been able to weigh in with their informed opinions on the movie's artistic qualities - or lack thereof - throughout this discussion, save for the people who made it. This has made it impossible for anyone to say, with any real authority, whether the film is successful in its efforts to satirize the present U.S. political climate, or if its social commentary leaves any lasting impact at all. The hope, then, is Universal and Blumhouse will eventually find a more suitable release date for the film and allow the public to judge its merits for themselves.