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The Real Reason The Hunt Is Finally Getting A Theatrical Release

The Hunt is back on.

Pulled from the schedule last year after a storm of controversy, the action thriller has implemented a new marketing campaign and scored a new release date — and its producers would like moviegoing audiences to know that their picture isn't what it's been made out to be.

Let's rewind just a bit. The movie, from Universal Pictures and reliable horrormeisters Blumhouse, had picked up a fair amount of buzz after its first trailer was released in July of last year. Its premise is reminiscent of the classic short story The Most Dangerous Game and its many film adaptations, with a modern twist: every year, a band of "elites" round up a randomly selected group of undesirables to hunt for sport.

However, one woman (portrayed by GLOW's Betty Gilpin) isn't down with being one of the hunted. She promptly turns the tables on her would-be killers, dispatching them with extreme prejudice while working her way toward an enigmatic woman (Rachel McAdams, Doctor Strange) who appears to be behind the whole thing.

If the flick sounds over-the-top bonkers, well, that's pretty much as intended. But in the lead-up to its September 27 release, two things happened: a smattering of mass shootings (all too common in the U.S.) turned the tide of public opinion against the picture; and an ill-informed tweet from Donald Trump (also all too common in the U.S.) railed against the film's supposed incitement to violence against conservatives (via Time).

The very next day, Universal pulled the plug on the flick — but now it's back, and producer Damon Lindelof has a few choice words for everyone who passed judgment on The Hunt without having actually, you know, seen it.

The filmmakers think The Hunt is misunderstood

While even cooler heads wondered if it would ever not be in poor taste to release a film about Americans hunting each other with guns, Lindelof — at a recent press screening of the movie — made a few excellent points. The producer admitted that it had never crossed his mind that the flick would register as "controversial," but noted that its 2019 marketing campaign didn't exactly do the job of conveying just what kind of film The Hunt really is (via Collider).

"In my brain, it always felt so over the top and absurd that [the fact that] it was entering into a dangerous space, you know, or a controversial space, that just completely threw me for a loop," Lindelof said. He noted that test screenings for The Hunt had gone very well, and that the opinions of those who got the chance to see the flick didn't line up well with those of critics who prematurely passed judgment based on a single trailer.

"None of the conversations that happened with people who had not seen the movie happened with people who had seen the movie," Lindelof said. He also noted that the movie's strong satirical streak simply wasn't played up in that first round of marketing, and he admitted that Universal's decision to pull the plug without an attempt to rectify the situation, well, teed him off — but he also recognized that opening his mouth in the middle of the maelstrom would have amounted to a losing battle.

"We had to balance our frustration with, what was the route to pursue to get the movie out," he said. "So we had to bite our tongues, until now."

The Hunt's new marketing campaign

The Hunt's new trailer certainly plays up its humorous elements a bit more, but it also throws the entire "elites hunting undesirables for sport" angle into question. In fact, it seems to posit that — much like the kerfuffle surrounding the film — the entire concept of the titular hunt may have spawned from some kind of titanic misunderstanding. The new spot makes the flick look about 80% more interesting than the 2019 trailer did (we've done the math), and when it comes to the flick's new poster — well, it's kind of a stroke of genius.

Rather than trying to sweep the controversy under the rug, the one-sheet leans into it, challenging the film's potential audience to make up their minds about it for themselves. It also features plenty of quotes from various sources about the flick — but not the kind featured on most movie posters. Check it out:

As for how The Hunt will actually be received, Lindelof thinks that once it's out in the wild (so to speak), the controversy will basically die of natural causes. "I don't think that the response to the movie is that it's going to be provocative, you know?" he said. "I don't think that people are going to be picketing this movie, or saying that this movie is dangerous or harmful. And that feels like it was the narrative the first time around before anybody had seen it. But I've been surprised before."

You can see for yourself what all the fuss is about when The Hunt finally hits the big screen on March 13.