The Hunt’s Craig Zobel Opens Up About Controversial Cancellation
Universal’s decision to cancel the release of the satire-driven action-thriller The Hunt has been met with very mixed reactions, some praising the decision to push the film given the nation’s recent string of mass shootings while others criticize the studio for unfairly responding to the backlash by shelving a film with more even-natured political themes.
In an interview with Variety, director Craig Zobel has opened up on the decision to cancel the film’s release, revealing that his intention was never to incite violence or create a political conflict, but rather to satirize “both sides of the aisle equally” and “entertain and unify, not enrage and divide.”
“I wanted 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,” he said. “This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.”
The film has proven to be a rare misfire for Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind genre hits Get Out, Us and more, but with the conservative backlash to the marketing campaign, which emphasized the film’s violence versus any kind of political satire, the studio seems to have been just as confused on how to properly advertise the film as many critics of the film are on its thematic nature.
“I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton,” Zobel said. “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. Once inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold, I supported the decision to move the film off its release date.”
While commending the studio for realizing the inappropriate timing of the film, Zobel also praised the studio for taking a risk “on greenlighting a film not based on prior intellectual property,” stating that the script underwent little to no changes during production.
“When the focus of your film is about killing, hunting people down, you’re going to have to answer hard questions about why you’re releasing a film like that in today’s climate,” Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations, said in a statement. “I think Universal just didn’t want to deal with the spin control which would have likely overtaken and overrun their publicity department.”
The new film, which depicts a group of wealthy people kidnapping and then hunting humans for sport, has been the subject of controversy following the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The Hunt was scheduled to be released on September 27. Universal did not indicate when or if they plan to distribute the film in the future.
Jason Blum, the producer of Get Out and The Purge series, produced alongside and Damon Lindelof, co-creator of the TV series The Leftovers and Lost, who also co-wrote the film. Betty Gilpin and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank star with Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, and Amy Madigan. Craig Zobel (Z for Zachariah, The Leftovers) directed the film.