is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman
After supposedly being canceled partly thanks to critical tweets from the president, ‘The Hunt’ is back with a marketing campaign built entirely around its controversy, and friendly media is gushing over it.
“The most talked about movie of the year is one no one has seen yet,” announced a recent trailer for ‘The Hunt,’ revealing a new release date for the horror flick as March 13.
A poster for the film giddily says the same thing, while also including the original release date for the movie — September 27 — crossed out. Based on the film’s new promotions, it seems Universal Pictures may have been glad they pulled it from its original release.
‘The Hunt’ follows a group of poor, kidnapped southern and midwest Americans who are hunted for sport by wealthy elites. The rich hunting the less fortunate is not the most original idea ever — even Jean Claude Van Damme took on just such a story in ‘Hard Target’ — but ‘The Hunt’ still managed to make waves last summer when it debuted its first trailer.
The violent nature of the film made some uncomfortable to promote it in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Networks like ESPN pulled ads. What really made the movie stand out though was its blatantly political nature.
Reports about the script revealed characters using words like “deplorables” to describe the people they’re hunting, and the original trailer for the movie almost feels like Twitter brought to life with guns and blood, one political side pitted against the other.
The straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to ‘The Hunt’ was President Donald Trump, who appeared to take clear shots at the film just a month before its release date. He slammed Hollywood as “racist” and claimed ‘The Hunt’ — which he never directly named — was meant to “inflame and cause chaos.”
Universal shelved the movie indefinitely only a day after the president’s tweets.
It would appear now though that the months since the film’s ‘cancellation’ were simply spent producing new posters, cutting trailers and putting together a fresh marketing strategy.
While director Craig Zobel and producer Jason Blum gave interviews last fall about their disappointment with the film being ‘misunderstood,’ they appear to have embraced the controversy and essentially made themselves appear to be victims of cancel culture so they could market the movie based on that.
The truth is ‘The Hunt’ was never cancelled. A couple tweets from a president who seems to tweet a thousand times a day about a thousand things does not equate to cancellation. ‘The Hunt’ did what many movies do and simply pushed its release date by a few months. They just chose to pretend it was going dark forever so they could have this new campaign and attention.
It’s further proof that while many of Hollywood’s most prominent figures grovel and moan about the state of the country and their concern over the president, Trump is the best thing to happen to many of them. They’re storytellers and he’s their antagonist. Some are building entire careers around the very idea of him being president.
Late night host Stephen Colbert, for instance, found a ratings boost when he went political and started fitting in Trump jokes nightly. And as much as the liberal comedian may not like the man, he’s good for business. ‘Our Cartoon President,’ a Showtime animated series about Trump and his White House staff produced by Colbert, is headed into its third season.
Or how about Alec Baldwin? Before Trump becoming president was a potential future, he was mired in controversy, apologizing or explaining away harsh language used against everyone from photographers to his daughter. He even got canned by MSNBC in 2013 when he was trying to reinvent himself as a political commentator. Then Trump became a politician, and Baldwin played him on ‘SNL.’ And he did it again, and again, and again. Now, he gets the same glowing interviews he did at the beginning of his career and is thrown into giant franchises like ‘Mission: Impossible’ or family-friendly flicks like ‘Boss Baby.’
Without Trump’s tweeting, ‘The Hunt’ might have been a completely looked-over horror film that maybe got some attention for its violent content. Now, it’s claiming to be the “most talked about movie of the year” and proudly announcing itself as some sort of cinematic phoenix that has defied the odds to make its way to screens. In reality, ‘The Hunt’ is just the latest clever attempt by Hollywood to market themselves on the back of a president they supposedly can’t stand, but also can’t stop cashing in on.