Universal Pictures has canceled the release of the Blumhouse film The Hunt. The film and its ad campaign had been at the heart of some controversy following multiple mass shootings across the U.S.
According to Variety, the decision was made together by studio heads and the filmmakers.
The Hunt tells the story of a group of men and women who wake up to find they’ve been kidnapped and are being hunted by a group of wealthy thrill-seekers. Why they’ve been chosen is not included in the film’s synopsis on IMDb, but it has been hinted by other outlets that they were considered “deplorables” by the hunters, who have been characterized as “wealthy liberal elitists.”
The film stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, and Justin Hartley among others.
The satirical, socio-political plot certainly did not help the film’s case as politicians and religious leaders across the country have pulled out the old scapegoat, pointing to violent video games and films for inspiring mass shooters and other violent acts.
It bears pointing out, however, that the film is a new iteration of “The Most Dangerous Game,” a short story by Richard Connell that was first published in 1924. It has been adapted numerous times by television shows and films, each making slight alterations between the hunter and the hunted.
“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,” a spokesperson for Universal said in a statement, “but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”
Universal had initially only pulled ads for the film following network decisions not to run the campaign.
The decision from the studio comes alongside decisions by major retailers like Walmart, who have chosen to take down advertising materials and signs for violent video games, though at this time they have not made the decision to pull the games themselves.
“Instinct is no match for reason,” the character General Zaroff argues in the “The Most Dangerous Game,” but in the case of The Hunt, it is difficult to decide which has won out.
In light of its cancelled release, we wonder what will come next? Will other studios pull releases? Will we see a change in themes within horror movies?
The genre has always reflected the greater fears in society so it’s difficult to say, but all eyes will be on the big studios in the coming weeks as we wait to see if this is a singular decision or the beginning of a trend.