Why the movie The Hunt was scrapped after death threats

By Alexandra Heilbron on August 15, 2019 | 32 Comments

The Hunt posterThe Hunt, a thriller starring Hilary Swank about a bunch of wealthy elites who pay to hunt down other humans (called “deplorables” in the film), was removed from Universal Pictures’ roster of films — and here’s why.

It was originally scheduled to hit theaters on September 27, 2019, but Universal first had test screenings, in which they gauged audiences’ reactions.

The reactions weren’t positive. Some test audience members expressed discomfort at the message the movie was portraying. Enough of them that it gave the studio executives pause for thought.

Add to that the fact that there were two mass shootings during the first weekend of August — one in Texas and one in Ohio — with a total death toll of 34. The weekend before, there was a mass shooting in California that killed three people, including a six-year-old boy.

Directly after the second deadly weekend, Universal pulled ads for the the Blumhouse-produced film, which included lines such as “Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables.”

Shortly after that, both Universal executives and the filmmakers began receiving death threats on social media and through email. On August 10, they pulled the film indefinitely from their roster. According to The Hollywood Reporter, producer Jason Blum was on board with the decision.

A similar situation occurred in 2014 with the movie The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. It was pulled from Sony Pictures’ release schedule after the North Korean government threatened retaliation if the film was released to theaters. In that case, the film was modified and had a very limited release two months later, but the stars made no public appearances to promote it and the film wasn’t advertised. Most importantly, the major theater chains refused to show it for fear that it would spark terrorist situations — and the movie eventually wound up on streaming services.

It’s believed that The Hunt will face a similar future, quietly surfacing on a streaming platform at some point, after the controversy has settled down. ~Alexandra Heilbron
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Comments & Discussion

  1. SM • August 15, 2019 @ 10:36 AM
  2. Maggie • August 15, 2019 @ 10:39 AM

    What is happening to the world when movie producers fell the need to produce movies like this??

  3. Maggie • August 15, 2019 @ 10:40 AM

    What is happening to the world when movie producers feel the need to produce movies like this??

  4. Mike OFlynn • August 15, 2019 @ 10:45 AM

    this idea is deplorable and the fact that “terrorism” has triumphed by stopping it is deplorable also. We are stuck in the middle of the end of freedom – can win with either side

  5. Rosary • August 15, 2019 @ 10:52 AM

    What a terrible idea for a movie! Insensitive and inhuman.

  6. Tornative • August 15, 2019 @ 10:56 AM

    All I can say is: only in America. Filmmakers, screenwriters and TV show producers should take a hard look at what their “art” inspires in the real world. Murder, rape, torture and forensic science are not the only subjects for entertainment. If people stopped fueling the studios that put out this sort of entertainment, the studios would stop producing them. Vote with your dollars.

  7. Paul • August 15, 2019 @ 10:56 AM

    The same as anything else people find offensive. You don’t have to watch it. Just another form of censorship

  8. Kathryn • August 15, 2019 @ 11:00 AM

    I’ve seen other movies/tv shows with this plot line.
    It usually shows good (Hilary) winning in the end.
    It may be a dumb movie in my opinion, but then I just don’t go see it (easy peasy).
    It’s a shame idiots can’t be trusted not to go on a shooting spree and blame it on the movie (tbh they’d find another reason).

  9. Margaret • August 15, 2019 @ 11:16 AM

    What is happening when movie producers fell the need to produce movies like this?
    It seems, the rift between the rich and poor makes this type of picture become something to be viewed by all. Is it their reality?

  10. Wayne • August 15, 2019 @ 11:17 AM

    This is absolutely ridiculous! If people don’t like the idea of the movie, they don’t have to watch it. It’s just that simple.

  11. Adam • August 15, 2019 @ 11:32 AM

    The article neglects to mention important facts. Firstly, it’s a satirical thriller. Of course the premise is disturbing. It’s MEANT TO BE. Secondly, some of the criticism and a major for why the movie was pulled from release was because of Donakd Trump who – not having seen it – criticized the hunt for its portrayal of social elites… which again was deliberate.

    I think the premise sounds great and people either not getting it or getting riled up over its topic makes me want to see it more. If you keep not releasing movies because you’re afraid people will get riled up, any movie that’s the least bit provocative is at risk.

  12. Sean • August 15, 2019 @ 12:01 PM

    The same people put out the Purge movie with no problems.
    Most horror/gore movies are disturbing.
    If you don’t like it don’t watch it.

  13. Terry • August 15, 2019 @ 12:09 PM

    First, – who gives a toss what the Korean’s like or dislike??? Since when did their opinion matter & why should it — ever? Next, – like others have said here, – if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Gosh, it’s not the first violent movie ever made. Today’s movies are FULL of people killing people!! Where’s the difference?? Last, – if people would get into this kind of an uproar when defenseless animals are farm raised for the purpose of hunting by those moronic trophy hunters, it would be such a better world to live in. Quite honestly, I’d love to see trophy hunters hunted down in a bush with nothing to defend themselves with. What a great movie that would make.

  14. B • August 15, 2019 @ 12:21 PM

    Sounds like an awesome “movie” would have loved to see this “movie”. And that’s all it was. This society is so sad.

  15. Jerry • August 15, 2019 @ 12:58 PM

    If this movie is ever shown i will never watch another Universal film or visit Universal studios.

  16. Vanessa • August 15, 2019 @ 1:58 PM

    I’m not offended by much and am all for freedom of expression especially when it comes to the arts, but when I saw the trailer for this in theatres, it did kind of make me go “Why?” Like what is this film trying to do? It just seemed like a movie all about killing for fun. Why would anyone want to make or watch that? I mean, the Purge movies actually brought about an interesting idea of whether overall crime would decrease if people were given one day to release all their stress and anger. But this movie literally just seemed like it was about some people who decided to kill some people one day. I don’t know. It just seemed like it didn’t have a point (maybe I’m wrong if I saw the whole film) other than being violent for violence sake…

  17. MA • August 15, 2019 @ 2:01 PM

    There are so many reasons Americans should feel ashamed of themselves these days….this is FOR SURE one of them. Do film producers not stop and THINK how these films will affect decent people? We give ENOUGH print and time to murderers, crooks and the various other malcontents in our society but to try and glorify them in film….one of the few outlets we have left to see decency…truly IS deplorable. Shame on them.

  18. x.x • August 15, 2019 @ 3:10 PM

    It’s a shame that this movie had to come out at such a bad time. I get it, with everything all the shootings in America right now it is an insensitive time to release this movie. However, although i haven’t seen the movie, i think it had potential to make a big statement on Americas current situation with trumps immigration laws, and the police brutality…shame it won’t be making it to the big screen

  19. Lisbeth Slabotsky • August 15, 2019 @ 4:51 PM

    I could never watch the TV show, Westworld. This is a horrible topic to make into a movie. The reality is bad enough. It shouldn’t even be streamed. Every single copy of this, digital and physical, should be destroyed.

  20. David • August 15, 2019 @ 5:28 PM

    Getting this worked up over a movie. How childish. This plot has been around at least since the 1920’s See “The Most Dangerous Game”

  21. Natalie • August 15, 2019 @ 5:52 PM

    As long as there are guns there will be shootings. Sadly is there a less sensitive time to release this kind of movie? Maybe, but I don’t think that should even come into play when a release date has been set. I agree with the people here that say ‘Don’t go see it’! Regardless of the movie genre or topic, we all have movies we wouldn’t see, but I’m not raising a freaking stink every time something I’m not into is released by a movie company! The person who damned this movie, but then said the movie ‘The Purge’ had a meaning is a flip flopper! I kind of think they are making fun of the elite of the world that pay to hunt and kill big game (Shout out to the Presidents family), only using humans makes you people finally think about it in a different way…I mean the way the world is going…you may one day see the a Purge or a Hunt actually happen, if it’s not already happening!!
    In the end it’s a movie, and they were made to entertain, make you think, or made for you to avoid…stop with all the PC BS that’s making the world no fun! Live your life the way you want to, but don’t force your extreme views on others and run the party!! Asshats!

  22. Ken • August 15, 2019 @ 9:17 PM

    I saw an old movie,i can’t remember the titlle. But a white guy was given a head start,and was hunted by tribesmen in Africa. Excellent movie. Did it make me want to kill black people? NO. It was just entertainment. The problem i’m finding nowadays,is an immoral society that has lost it’s values.Everything is not politically correct,yet you can do whatever you want without any real consequences. When i was growing up,we played army with plastic army helmuts,and realistic army cap guns. Did any of us even think of killing anyone? NO.Not at all. We knew the difference of reality and fantasy,and what real guns would do. We were afraid of them,even to go near them. We saw what war could do,by watching war movies. It scared the hell out of us. We just played in our fantasy game. Not one of us wanted to grow up to be in the army. It was just a game,that’s all. But nowadays,the new generation seem to have no moral values,or honor,or respect. They are stuck in their cell phones,smoke dope,drink more,and are dilussional. They think nothing of gunning someone down. Where are the parents? Where is some moral teachings in their lives? It’s not in a cell phone.

  23. Dan • August 15, 2019 @ 10:46 PM

    How times change. In 1994 Natural Born Killers came out. I saw it at Comic Con before the release and everybody applauded. At first I was appaled until I realized it was a satire. It wouldn’t get a showing today.

  24. Jennifer • August 16, 2019 @ 1:29 AM

    I don’t see the big deal. I mean really if you want to talk disturbing there’s already worse things out there rated as PG or T. What about Hunger Games? Making kids FIGHT TO THE DEATH? What about Game of Thrones and the Red Wedding? The Purge, where all crime is legal one night a year? Need I go on?

    People need to learn to differentiate between REAL life and MADE UP life. Hell there are several books I’ve read with a similar premise. I’ve seen KIDS CARTOONS with the same premise. People blaming movies for real life incidences, or making death threats over a movie need to get a life. Seriously. If all these so called ‘studied about violent video games, rock music and Dungeons and Dragons were true, I’d be a mass murderer, as would my boyfriend and his siblings. We do all this stuff, and yet we don’t ever have a single though about going out and killing someone.

    It isn’t like someone went out and killed people JUST to film this movie. They use ACTORS who PLAY A ROLE. If people can’t separate fantasy from reality, THEY are the ones with the problem.

  25. Tina Marie Russell • August 16, 2019 @ 12:23 PM

    “Fantasy Island” had a similar story line on one of their episodes in the late 70’s early 80’s. “Deliverance” is a very well known movie with a similar plot from 1972…Even “Jumanji” has a guy hunting Robin Williams, and most people know what “The Purge” is. There are too many movies and shows with similar story lines to count, the difference is that here in the early 2000’s, we have lost the shock value and horror of it all, and it has become entertainment. We have become desensitized to the point that the movie makers have to do something more vile/horrific and shocking to get viewership.

  26. Jason • August 16, 2019 @ 3:28 PM

    I agree with all of you. This reaction is happening decades too late. The Hunger Games should never have been a book, let alone one read by impressionable eight year olds and then a movie for the same age range. Audiences now glorify in humans being killed in movies and TV series. Game of Thrones. Watching stuff like that makes some people – maybe not everyone, but some people bloodthirsty. It gives them the thirst for death, to kill and watch people die. Were there mass shootings prior to the 1950s? Nope. It wasn’t fed to Americans as a steady diet back then. Mass shootings and daily murders on our streets should come as a surprise to no one. Monkey see, monkey do.

  27. CDubya • August 16, 2019 @ 6:49 PM

    Good for the studio to gauge audience reaction and pull it. Maybe for the best. Unfortunately it is only a movie and even worse is that there are mentally disturbed people out that that twist fantasy and reality in their minds and feel they can do the same thing in real life.

  28. Leigh • August 17, 2019 @ 7:16 PM

    The Manhattan Hunt Club – John Saul 2001 (book); this movie sounds very similar to the plot of this book; but I suppose you read the back cover of this book and decided it was not for you. Guess what?? You can choose what movies you go to as well! If you are a parent, you can talk with your children about the differences between fantasy and a reality. This communication thing with children is really effective; I watched Roadrunner cartoons every Saturday morning, my parents were involved with me and made sure I understood it was pretend and I have never attempted to drop an anvil off a cliff in an attempt to hurt anyone! Although, I do hunt deer, perhaps watching Bambi at a young age is why, or maybe it’s because I watched too much Elmer Fudd hunting that rabbit; but then, why am I not a princess? Please stop blaming movies and video games for the evil in this world and look to the systems that run our country; it is there that you will find where real villainy exists.

  29. Brenda • August 21, 2019 @ 6:05 AM

    If the same test audience allowed the movie(s) The Purge to pass, which is basically the same thing. Then why not The Hunt. The Hunt depicts it from a different angle. Why allow the Purge and not the Hunt? Personally, I could do without either.

  30. Jennifer • August 21, 2019 @ 10:04 PM

    No Jason I am NOT saying those movies should not have been made. PEOPLE need to take responsibility for their actions. Funny how movies like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones have been shown in countries like Canada and Australia and you don’t hear about daily mass shootings.

    The problem is gun control and mental heath funding. I am SICK AND TIRED of hearing BS excuses of movies, games, music, TV, or whatever the latest BS excuse of the cause of mass shootings. I’ve heard ALL kinds of things blamed and yet the same things exist in many major countries and yet only a few have mass shootings.

  31. Jason • August 22, 2019 @ 9:00 AM

    Jennifer said: “Funny how movies like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones have been shown in countries like Canada and Australia and you don’t hear about daily mass shootings.”

    Maybe not daily mass shootings but there are more murders and shootings than ever before. There are more stabbings. The more people watch violence on television and in films, the more they will think violence is an acceptable part of daily life.

  32. john • August 26, 2019 @ 5:09 PM

    I cant wait 2 see it (:

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