Badge of Honour: How The Hunt took it's controversy and spun it into an entire marketing campaig

Last week I wrote in this blog about cult movies. That piece was specifically about the way the current cinematic landscape is altering, at least I think it is, and that the altering of the landscape means that we maybe need to start reconsidering how we actually define a cult film… if such a thing is possible to begin with in the first place.

Defining a cult movie is complicated and the ground is shaky. There are certain proposed definitions, some detailed some… not so much, and even then, no one can actually agree on which one they want to actually follow or use or implement. For my money a cult film is more to do with a viewers individual experience of a film than it is anything else, and that’s why it’s so difficult to clearly define, but that’s not really the point of what I want to get into here.

One of the things I mentioned last week was how the idea of being the source of some controversy or some sort of anti-establishment thing has become a badge of honour. While that kind of thing used to be resigned for the truly fringe cult films, by 1999 Fight Club were using the bad reviews as part of its marketing, and but 2020…

I want to talk about The Hunt.

You remember The Hunt, right? That film that was produced by Blumhouse and based on The Most Dangerous Game. The one that featured the liberal Hollywood elite tracking down and killing MAGA types because they had decided said MAGA types were beneath them. You know, the one that MAGA types then took offence with for… reasons I still don’t fully understand beyond the fact that, well… they’re a bunch of massive f**king morons.

You know the film I mean. I know you do, because unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’d have heard of it at some point in the last few months. Either, you’d have heard of it during the initial (and completely non-existent and stupendous) controversy whereby the dip-shit in the White House got all stroppy over it – clearly not understanding the concept of… um, I was going to say satire but, truthfully I don’t think it’s even that deep. It’s more like he just saw the words “liberal elite” and assumed it must have been bad. I guess he doesn’t understand the concept of words – and then Universal pulled it from release over fears of…

Hold on, I feel like this is getting complicated. Let’s lay out the timeline.

The Hunt is a film about the Hollywood liberal elite hunting MAGA types for sport. The liberals are, in this scenario, the bad guys, while the MAGA types (or “Deplorables” if you will) are, presumably the POV characters and heroes.

For reasons I have never – and I do mean never – been able to work out, Trump and his band of merry wankers took issue with this film. I don’t know if they thought it would give the liberal elite ideas, like if that was the other way around, they’d have all gone “Hey! That sounds like a good idea!”, or if they literally just assumed it would be bad and shat themselves about it before even bothering to learn if they were right.

Anyway, Trump’s outrage – however inexplicable and nonsensical it was – ironically meant that a very real, very genuine threat then appeared around the film. Like, the film itself wasn’t a threat, but Trump jumping in and saying it was bad meant that crazed alt-right Trump fanatics could very well suddenly show up and start mass murdering people with their guns because… this is the world we live in, folks. Ain’t it a scream?

In response to this, and the very real danger that then clung around the film like a big cloud of orange spray tan looking for a host, Universal pulled the film from release, issuing a statement confirming that they would release it once this whole thing had died down.

At the time, while I was fully aware that the so-called “controversy” was undoubtedly doing the movie some good anyway (after all, as I mentioned in my cult movies post last week, it’s an odd badge of honour to have been banned or the subject of some trouble), I was reluctantly on the side of Universal. While I wished they’d decided to just release the movie anyway, because f*ck censorship, right(?), I understood where they were coming from, but now…

Here are some of the quotes from the poster that dropped this week, announcing the movie’s release next month;

“A disturbance to our country” – Deadline

“Exploitative rather than opinionated” – Daily Mail

And my personal favourite: “Shows Hollywood for what it really is. Demented and evil” – Fox News

And I’m sure there is an argument to be made for how cynical this all is. How highlighting the controversy in such an aggressive and obviously baiting way is likely totally out of favour with the whole reason Universal supposedly pulled it in the first place, but honestly… it’s hard to care when it’s this funny. Much like James Gunn before it, all the alt-right brigade seems to have succeeded in doing here is giving The Hunt a massive, massive – and totally free – marketing push.

But, and this is me bring things all the way back full circle here, given The Hunt’s prolific controversy (it was literally everywhere when it happened) and it’s sudden return to the public consciousness, as well as it’s undoubtedly certain kind of success at the Box Office – I’m going to see it, and I’m going to make everyone else see it, for example – can we really call this one “cult”, even if ultimately that technical definition is where it falls?

Not that any of that matters really, all I wanted to do was highlight the fact that The Hunt is coming out next month, and we should all go see it. Because if there is one thing more certain to piss off the trolls of the alt-right than the fact that they could get the movie banned, it would be the fact that they actually made it a mega-success.

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© Alex Secker 2018