Some stories are retold over and over in new renditions. Romeo and Juliet, set in New York City with gangs, becomes West Side Story. The Tempest on an alien world with a robot for Caliban is Forbidden Planet (1956). It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) becomes a 1989 Christmas episode of the TV comedy Married With Children wherein, after the schlub Al Bundy is shown by an angel that the people who happily made his life a burden would be better off if he’d never been born, he decides to live to spite them. As you can see from the last, transmogrification can produce peculiar results. Such is the case with “The Most Dangerous Game,” now retold in the film The Hunt (2019).
“The Most Dangerous Game,” a short story by Richard Connell, first appeared in 1924 in Collier’s magazine. In it, a shipwrecked man is hunted by a big game hunter who has grown bored with conventional prey like tigers. Men are more challenging. In 1932, RKO Pictures turned the story into the film The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea as the human prey. Fay Wray, who would find greater fame in King Kong (1933), was added as a second castaway to provide McCrea’s character with a damsel to save while evading the hunter. The film was successful, and the story was retold in later films. These drifted further from the original.
The hunter became a Nazi in A Game of Death (1945). In Bloodlust! (1961), the prey was a group of young people meant to draw the teenage drive-in movie crowd. In it, Johnny, played by the 27-year-old Robert Reed, who would one day be the dad on The Brady Bunch, memorably scolds the hunter: “Listen, Mister … fun’s fun. But if you think we’re gonna be the clay pigeons in your shooting gallery — you’re just a little far out!” In The Woman Hunt (1972), the victims are beautiful girls, who, according to the ads, were “hunted like animals by men who are beasts” in “an orgy of sex and death.” The Suckers (1972) was in the same vein. The Perverse Countess (1974) increased the sex and added cannibalism. Turkey Shoot (1982) is a violent Australian interpretation set in a futuristic prison whose inmates are hunted. Another sci-fi version was Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1987). It returned to female prey not dressed for cold weather. They are also prison inmates, but this time on an alien world. Hard Target (1993) was a gritty version, with homeless vets paid to be prey. Surviving the Game (1994) was also grim, with a homeless man tricked into being hunted. The Pest (1997) was an attempt to turn the story into a comedy. It starred John Leguizamo as a mistakenly chosen victim who, instead of being released when the error is detected, is hunted because he’s just so annoying. The film cost $17 million to make but earned only $3.5 million because Leguizamo’s character also annoyed audiences. To this list, we can add The Hunt (2019).
In The Hunt, originally titled Red State vs. Blue State, the hunters are elitists from blue states, and their prey are “deplorables” from red states. The shootings in El Paso and Dayton caused the film’s studio, Universal, to cancel its scheduled September 27, 2019, release. With the film on hold, its details are obscure. All we have to illuminate its content is a fake commercial for the hunt meant to create buzz and the film’s trailer.
In the commercial, an elegant hunting experience provided to a select few is described as a private jet flies a well-dressed man to a posh resort. This is followed by scenes of hunting in lovely scenery, ending with a frantic woman fleeing into that scenery. The trailer shows snippets of the movie that reveal more and the film’s makers have added hints to the media.
The Hunt is said to be a satire on current political divisions. Satire has always been an acidic form of humor, but in recent years, the term has been used to excuse some vicious film gore. One instance, included in the trailer, is grisly. A bubba-type, drugged for transport, wakes on the jet transporting him to the hunt and staggers, befuddled, out to where the hunters are seated. The villainess swiftly kills him by hammering a stiletto heel into one of his eyes. The murder is supposed to be darkly amusing because he’s dim-witted and ugly, she’s glib and glamorous, and his quick, brutal murder with a fashionable shoe is unexpected. Horror films have long pushed stuff like this, and if you have the stomach for it, well, it’s still a free country, but I won’t be asking you to babysit my cat. What makes The Hunt more disturbing than the usual movie mayhem is its choice of victims.
In earlier variants of “The Most Dangerous Game,” the villains were evil and the victims, with few exceptions, were undeserving of their plight. The Hunt chooses to make the victims also villains. It plays to progressive hate by creating caricatures of what progressives think deplorables are, then killing them in inventive ways. It’s indicative of how acceptable it has become to despise those who aren’t politically correct.
Some conservative pundits suggest that the red-staters will be seen as underdogs and that the audience will root for them, but this isn’t likely. They will be racist, sexist, and homophobic cartoons. There’s a good chance you’ll see a trigger-happy gun nut accidentally shoot one of his fellow prey or himself, an evangelical curse like Robert De Niro, a businessman try to sell out the others for his life, a macho man rabbit at the first loud noise, and maybe another bubba, but with a meth addiction to make him different from the shoe victim, stupidly stumble into an obvious death trap. There will be at least one stalwart guy who will recant the error of his deplorable ways. He’ll thrust his chin out and do something noble that will get him killed. He would have been the hero before Hollywood insisted that 110-pound actresses could beat, slice, or blast the living, quivering guts out of any number of heavily armed, 220-pound male thugs. The film has one such superwoman, played by Betty Gilpin.
In Gilpin, the filmmakers have turned Fay Wray in 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game into “Fay Rambo.” Like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), she’s a sardonic killing machine, the kind that should have been parachuted into Afghanistan on September 12, 2001, with a melon baller. She would have single-handedly finished off the entire Taliban in time to use their skulls for jack-o’-lanterns on the following Halloween. She’s not so good, however, at shepherding her fellow prey through the hunt. They will die quickly, but we aren’t expected to care. They are, after all, deplorable, and their deaths are what we’re in the theater to see. The hunters aren’t likable, either. They are also politically incorrect, and they’ll be getting slaughtered, too.
Hilary Swank plays the boss baddie who recruits the killers. She exudes arrogant disdain for the victims of the hunt and is also a deadly killer — like Leona Helmsley crossed with the above-mentioned Thurman.
If it were a realistic story, the blue murderers would be Hollywood airheads, Hillary holdouts, Never-Trumpers, soy boys taking Antifa fun to the next level, or maybe some know-nothing know-it-all you’d see on CNN who resembles the runt of a Mafia family. Instead, they’ll be “one percenters” — snotty snobs, not smug progs. Perhaps there’ll be a hedge fund manager, an oil company heir, an ad man for a drug company, or, most villainous of all, a Trump-style real estate mogul. Gilpin won’t be making friends with any of them.
The rationalization given in the trailer for the blue state killers in The Hunt is the claim that blue states “pay for everything.” It’s a common argument to justify further empowering blue states (who, in other contexts, decry wealth buying political influence). Blue states tend to pay a lot of taxes. Wealth, the source of taxes, has accumulated in them because that’s where much of America’s population and commerce are concentrated. Taxes, however, aren’t the only way citizens contribute to a country.
America’s service men and women put their lives on the line for our country. They come from both red and blue states but red states generally enlist at higher rates than blue states. In 2013, 44% of all military recruits came from the Southern region of the U.S., a red state area, despite its having only 36% of the country’s 18-to-24 year-old civilian population.
If we take each state’s number of possible recruits and establish what portion of the nation’s possible recruits that that is equal to, we can calculate a value for a state’s participation in military service. A state that sends recruits proportionally equal to its share of the nation’s possible recruits would have a value of 1 over 1, which would equal 1. A poor ratio would produce less than 1 and a better would produce a value greater than 1. In 2016, blue states such as California, New York, and Massachusetts provided less than their share of military recruits based on their eligible population. They all had values less than 1. Red states like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama had values better than that. Red state Georgia had a value of 1.5, more than any other state. Washington, D.C. had the lowest value, 0.20. Blue California and New York are number one and number five in total recruits because of their large populations, but even when measured in total recruits, red Texas, Florida, and Georgia are two, three and four.
Wherever they come from, we should be grateful for our service members, but we shouldn’t forget these numbers the next time some progressive chatterer declares that red states should leave running America to blue hands because they pay for everything. They don’t. Some things aren’t paid for with cash.