In the wake of recent mass shootings and apparent criticism from Donald Trump, Universal Pictures has just canceled the release of The Hunt, a satirical social thriller that was scheduled to come out on September 27. An R-rated Blumhouse production, The Hunt follows twelve strangers who find themselves in a clearing, oblivious that they are the targets of a vicious hunt that involves guns and blades. The hunters are elites who pursue “normal” people from rural states like Wyoming and Florida for sport, which makes for a violent and bloody storyline.
However, the nation is still reeling from the two devastating mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Both occurred only hours within each other, adding once more to the dozens of mass shootings this year and stoking the agitated flames within the US to greater heights.
Public officials, most notably President Donald Trump, disparaged the movie industry for promoting bloodshed. “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!” he tweeted. “The movie coming out is made in order… to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!” His incendiary words then provoked Democrats into accusing him of being sententious and hypocritical, claiming that his actions have also contributed to the outgrowth of hate crimes in the US.
Overall, with the current divisive and volatile condition of the country, movies such as The Hunt seem to hit too close to home. As a result, a Universal spokesperson told CNN Business in a statement, “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for The Hunt, after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film. We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.” Universal did not give any indication as to when the film will be released in the future.
Moreover, the film’s star Hilary Swank commented on the cancellation to USA Today, saying, “I fully support the decision by Universal and the filmmakers regarding The Hunt. It is a choice that I also personally felt was necessary. I can’t comprehend the violence happening in our county right now. We should all focus on healing, and above all else, kindness, sensitivity and humanity.”
Universal isn’t the only one taking measures to lessen the amount of violence and bloodshed that they show. Walmart, the location of the El Paso shooting, has announced that it would pull displays of violent video games in stores. ESPN and ABC have pushed back airing an esports tournament that virtually depicts people fighting with guns.
Canceling movies is a rarity in the entertainment industry. Cancellations are often met with dubious reactions because they end up alienating directors or risk being called self-censorship. While Universal made a risky move, this period of time in the US is also unlike any other, and the sensitive subject matter of The Hunt should probably be left on the shelves for now.
Photo Courtesy of Mark Salcido