Universal is reconsidering its marketing and rollout strategy for The Hunt, an upcoming satirical horror film that pits liberals and conservatives against one another in a gory battle royale, in light of two recent mass shootings, one of which was explicitly politically motivated. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ESPN pulled a TV spot for the film already, and representatives for parent company Disney have said that no advertising for the film will be appearing on the network. A TV spot for the film did run on AMC, although it is not entirely clear whether AMC simply did not find it objectionable, or if it was a different spot.
At least at face value, The Hunt feels like a more explicitly-political take on The Purge (a franchise that has not been averse to politics in its last couple of installments anyway). The story reportedly centers on a group of right-wing poor people who wake up to find themselves being hunted for sport by "liberal elites." While a trailer for the film is already available online, a broader promotional campaign was being planned for early September, and is now being reappraised by Universal, according to THR. What appears to be happening is that management is worried about blowback from the public, but reluctant to anger Jason Blum, the head of Blumhouse and one of the most consistently successful producers in horror.
Changing films, or altering release dates, to accommodate for the current political climate is nothing new. Numerous films were either delayed, or had their theatrical runs cut short in 2001 following the September 11 terror attacks, including Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage and the Dave Barry adaptation Big Trouble. Just last year, Blumhouse moved the release of Happy Death Day 2 U after receiving negative feedback from the father of a Parkland shooting victim when the film fell on the anniversary of that mass shooting. Also last year, the film Assassination Nation -- with a premise not too dissimilar to that of The Hunt -- was a dud at the box office, earning only $2 million in theaters and failing to secure an international release. The film was inexpensive to make, but it still cost $10 million to get the distribution rights after it was a big hit at Sundance.
The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Justin Hartley, and Sturgill Simpson, among others. The film is directed by Craig Zobel, who has done episodes of Outcast, American Gods, and Westworld. It is set for a September 27 release.