And so continues the pandemic.

I hope everyone reading this is doing well. Honestly, I feel more than a little frivolous writing about movies when people across the globe are losing their jobs, or receiving news that their loved ones have succumbed to illness, alone in a hospital bed, without any friends or family to comfort them.

Still, I suppose with many of us staying at home in the hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, there’s far fewer options to occupy our days with.

Sometimes you need a distraction from all the troubles in the world just to keep your sanity. Now more than ever. And for me, nothing fits that bill quite as well as a good movie.

So for the time being I’ll keep writing in the hopes that my reviews and recommendations may make someone’s day better, even if just slightly.

This time around I watched the belated release of a movie delayed due to its violence and controversial subject matter, plus a film based on the true story of a mother desperately searching for her missing daughter.

Let’s get to the reviews. 

***

The Hunt

First up is “The Hunt.”

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. 

In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, ruthless elitists gather at a remote location to hunt humans for sport. But their master plan is about to be derailed when one of the hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin), turns the tables on her pursuers.

Well it’s finally here. A film widely criticized by right-wing pundits for its depiction of “liberal elites” hunting and killing working-class conservatives for sport.

Or as Dan Gainor would describe the film to Fox News back in August, “wannabe Tinseltown terrorists are making sick murder fantasies about right-wingers.”

The conservatives in the film are even referred to as “deplorables,” a clear allusion to the phrase “basket of deplorables” used by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

Even President Trump himself got in on the action, describing the film as a movie “made in order to inflame and cause chaos.”

Originally set to open in September of last year, the film was delayed by Universal due to poor optics in the wake of the Dayton and El Paso shootings.

Unfortunately for the studio, their new release date of March 13 turned out to be a pivotal weekend in how the United States viewed the coronavirus pandemic, and movie theaters across the country shuttered their doors indefinitely a few days afterwards.

Luckily, for anyone still interested in watching this largely maligned feature film, Universal has decided to bypass theaters altogether, and make a number of their current, and at least one of their future films, available to watch in the comfort of your own living room for the rental price of $19.99.

A steep cost to be sure, though the justification Universal is using is that people tend to go to the movies in groups, and if you have two or three or more people in your house watching the rental, you’re already spending less than you would have if you had gone to a typical movie theater to see the film.

That kind of pricing structure works pretty well if you’re a family of five who want to see Universal’s upcoming animated feature “Trolls World Tour,” but it’s a much poorer value for someone like me who tends to watch movies on their own.

But enough about the film’s pricing structure. Is “The Hunt” really the blight that Fox News and Trump painted it as all those months ago?

Well, kind of? But definitely not for the reasons conservative pundits were complaining about.

First of all, it’s clear that absolutely no one criticizing this film back in August, especially the President, knew anything about this movie beyond the basic premise. And even then, they obviously didn’t bother thinking about the synopsis for more than five seconds.

You know how I know this?

Because the antagonists in this film are obviously the “liberal elites.”

Think about it. The film is about a group of rich people who hunt and kill conservatives, or “deplorables” as they call them, for sport. Similar in premise to Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” but with an added political twist.

Now in what universe would anyone consider the people murdering other people for fun the good guys?

Is the Predator the good guy in the “Predator” films? Are serial killers the righteous protagonists we all look up to in movies? No, of course not.

Though I’m sure there are exceptions, I would say mass murderers who kill for pleasure are generally portrayed negatively in the large majority of media.

And if any right-wing personality who called this film “evil” or “dangerous,” including our commander-in-chief, would have bothered to turn on their brains for five minutes and think about the premise, they might have realized the closest thing this film has to heroes are the so called “deplorables” themselves.

Now to be fair, this movie does make a point to portray those with conservative leanings in a negative light.

With the exception of Crystal, the “deplorables” hunted in this film are nothing but racist caricatures, who revel in conspiracy theories and enjoy bragging about how many guns they own.

Yet the liberals here are painted with just as broad of a brush, with all of them obsessing over gendered pronouns, and losing their mind anytime someone in their ranks does something perceived as “problematic.”

Plus, there’s also the thing about the liberals drugging and kidnaping a dozen people to brutally murder them. Something that is, to clarify to any pundits from Fox News who might be reading, generally seen as negative behavior and is not at all glorified in this film or in Hollywood in general.

The liberals in this movie think murdering a dozen people is justified because they probably use the n-word on Twitter. That’s how unhinged they are.

This movie goes to great lengths to satirize both sides of the aisle to an insane degree. It’s a parody of the current political situation we find ourselves in, where no one, save the reasonable main character, comes out looking good. Least of all the “liberal elites.”

All of that said though, even though I’ve spent the majority of this review defending the film against those who would call it “dangerous,” I still wouldn’t call it a good movie.

The writing in “The Hunt” is so hamfisted and on-the-nose, it’s impossible to take any of it seriously.

There is no nuance here. Everyone in the film, again with the exception of Crystal, is a one-dimensional caricature.

Nearly all of the dialogue feels like it’s lifted directly from an internet comment section. It’s like everyone only knows how to speak in politically charged catchphrases.

The movie has no depth. It’s just a surface level satire attempting to show how ridiculous both sides are. One that isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is.

It’s an absurd film. Filled to the brim with carnage, including people on both sides being shot, stabbed, and in one case even blown in half, all to the full view of the audience. The gore here is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s clearly played up for comedy if that’s something you’re into.

I will admit, the film did make me laugh a few times just for the sheer lunacy of it all.

Most of the time though, I just had my head in my hands, groaning at how proud the film was for its lack of subtlety.

So no, this isn’t the sick Hollywood murder fantasy about killing right-wingers that Fox News sources would claim, but it’s also not a particularly good film in general. Certainly not worth the $20 asking price for a two-day rental.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from this movie it’s this. Perhaps people should stop and take a second to think about the latest thing that makes them outraged. Especially if you happen to be a political commentator, or the President of the United States.

You might find that the thing upsetting you isn’t nearly as evil as you assume it to be.

“The Hunt” is rated R.

***

Lost Girls

The other movie this week is “Lost Girls.”

When 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert mysteriously disappears one night, her mother Mari (Amy Ryan) embarks on a dark journey that finds her face to face with hard truths about her daughter, herself, and police bias.

Determined to find her daughter at all costs, Mari retraces Shannan’s last known steps, driving her own investigation to an insular gated community near the desolate outer banks of Long Island.

This is one of those movies that I went into fairly blind before I sat down to watch it. Heck, I didn’t even know it existed until a friend of mine recommended it to me.

From the premise, I expected something of a murder mystery thriller. Where a desperate mother takes matters into her own hands, and brings those who would harm her daughter to justice.

But that isn’t really what this film is going for. A fact I didn’t realize until near the very end, where I learned the whole story was based on real events.

This isn’t a movie about a woman inflicting righteous justice on those who would harm her kin. 

It’s a story focused more on pain and loss, and the feeling of powerlessness for someone in Mari’s position.

To that end, this film is a bit frustrating to watch. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because no one with any kind of authority in the film, especially the police, bother to take Mari’s plight seriously.

To law enforcement, Mari’s daughter is just another statistic due to her less than legal line of work. She’s not even worth investigation.

Mari has to constantly insist the police do their dang jobs. But instead they constantly call into question her shortcomings as a mother. As if that’s a justifiable reason to ignore a missing persons case.

It didn’t really hit me until the very end, where it was revealed this was all based on a true story, how tragic of a tale this movie was.

Throughout the film I kept on feeling disappointed that the story wasn’t nearly as gripping or thrilling as I would have hoped.

Even up until near the conclusion I was still expecting some grand finale. Some kind of satisfying conclusion to make the suffering Mari went through pay off in the end.

But that wasn’t the narrative this film set out to deliver. Not every story has a happy ending. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, life is just plain cruel.

So if you’re looking for a movie to feel good by the end of it, this is definitely not the film for you.

But if you don’t mind a somber, true to life tale about a real tragedy, then I could certainly give this film a recommendation. In the end, I’m glad I experienced it.

“Lost Girls” is rated R.

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