Still more details are emerging about the drama surrounding the now aborted release of Universal and Blumhouse’s $18 million-budgeted dark satire thriller “The Hunt” which was pulled from the schedule a few days ago.
As reported earlier today, Universal was reportedly planning to pull the release anyway even before numerous think pieces and campaigns against the movie emerged last week in conservative media outlets, along with comments about it on U.S. President Donald Trump’s twitter feed.
Universal bought Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof’s script, then titled “Red State vs. Blue State,” in May 2018 and sources tell the outlet multiple Universal executives had reservations about the project. Even so, the film was made but the studio kept details of the script secret and the marketing materials were all deliberately designed not to feature any overt political themes – even as it was advertised during Democratic debates and on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show.
Reportedly the film conducted two test screenings, the second in the San Fernando Valley on August 6th, just days after a trio of mass shootings in the U.S. that previous weekend. Both the first and this second screening reportedly had audience members expressing discomfort with the political messaging in the film which was hammered onto the otherwise familiar “The Most Dangerous Game” premise.
On that same day, the news broke that Universal had hit pause on the film’s marketing plan and details of the political spin of the premise, that it followed a “dozen MAGA types who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals” were published.
Universal executives and the filmmakers began receiving death threats via email and on social media. The studio’s internal security force became involved but outside law enforcement was not alerted. Then came the Fox News coverage and the Trump tweets and by August 10th the film’s release was scrapped.
Sources tell the outlet the studio leadership was reluctant to cave to outrage from people who hadn’t seen the finished film, but the mass shootings changed the game – turning an already inflammatory satire into something toxic enough to not be worth the headache. Certainly not for a studio which dealt with a comparatively minor backlash last year over “First Man” and its inclusion of the American flag in one scene.
Producer Jason Blum is said to have been on board with the decision to scrap the film for now. However there is also said to be international distributors who are interested and might be willing to take the film off Universal’s hands.