Universal Cancelled The Release Of “The Hunt” After Receiving Death Threats

Published on August 17, 2019

A new horror film called “The Hunt” was put on indefinite hold in the wake of three mass shootings throughout the U.S. over the last few weeks. The film, which was created by Blumhouse Productions and was to be released through Universal Studios, depicted a group of “liberal elites” that capture and hunt right wing conservatives for fun. Despite the depiction of gun violence during a time when gun control remains a hotly debated issue, the film garnered a lot of controversy for its depiction of violent extremism and portrayal of middle America as a group of “deplorables.”

ESPN First Pulled Ads For The Film After Shootings

Ads for the film began being pulled from the air after a mass shooting in Gilroy, California killed four—including a child—and left 13 injured last month. ESPN was the first network to stop airing ads for “The Hunt” that week. Days later, two other mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio left as many as 33 killed due to gun violence in a matter of days. It was then that Universal decided to pull all ads for the film, as the depiction of gun violence and hunting humans for sport was deemed distasteful.

“The Hunt,” however, was still scheduled for its normal theatrical release of September 27 as of last week. The film that was originally titled “Red State vs. Blue State” began receiving increased criticism, both for its portrayal of gun violence and for its portrayal of an even more divided America. The film starred Betty Gilpin and Emma Roberts as two members of a kidnapped group of “deplorables” (right-wing conservatives from middle America) that wake up in an empty field to find that they’re part of a game where a group of liberal elites (one of which is portrayed by Hilary Swank) hunt them for sport out of a private mansion retreat. Fans of “The Purge” series would recognize the film’s position as a satirical thriller, which aimed at showing the extremes of a politically divided country.

It wasn’t until President Trump saw discussion of the film on Fox News that it started gaining even more bad publicity that ultimately led to its cancellation. The President expressed distaste for the film’s themes on Twitter—partially because it portrayed his followers as a bunch of gun-weilding “deplorables” out to seek revenge on a group of elite liberals that felt entitled to kidnap and hunt them. After that, Universal had all but no choice but to cancel the film’s release in its entirety.

Universal Cancels Release, Blumhouse Takes Major Loss

“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,” said a statement on behalf of Universal that was published in Variety. “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,” the statement continued.

This is not the first politically charged satire to be made inaccessible in the wake of political turmoil. A 2014 comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen portrayed the two as journalists that travel to North Korea to conduct an interview with (and ultimately kill) Kim Jong Un, the leader of the highly secretive country. Threats of nuclear retaliation over the film’s depiction of Kim Jong Un forced the company’s distributor to pull it’s release, though it was ultimately released as a direct to consumer film.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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