The Hunt

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Thriller;
Box Office $5.81 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for some strong bloody violence and language throughout.
Stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Glenn Howerton, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Justin Hartley.

While conceived as a political allegory, The Hunt works just fine on its own as a straightforward comedic action thriller.

The film, about a group of wealthy left-wing elites who kidnap conservatives to hunt them for sport, is like a modern version of The Most Dangerous Game, meshed with The Purge and The Hunger Games for good measure.

The film uses misdirection to put the audience in the position of those being hunted, constantly guessing about what is really happening. After a brief opening in which a group of friends jokes about looking forward to “The Manor,” an assortment of people awaken in a forest, their mouths gagged. They discover crates in a clearing filled with weapons and the means to free themselves. But the games begin in earnest with a deliciously bloody body count.

One of them, Crystal (Betty Gilpin of Netflix’s “GLOW”) seems to be a step ahead. She wants to find the ringleader, Athena (Hilary Swank) and put an end to these shenanigans once and for all.

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In the primary featurette on the Blu-ray, the five-minute “Crafting The Hunt,” producer and co-writer Damon Lindeloff discusses how the film is meant to satirize how political opponents get locked into assumptions about the other side, threatening to plunge into a never-ending war rather than attempt to get along.

Rounding out the sparse extras on the Blu-ray are two more featurettes running just over two-and-a-half minutes. “Death Scene Breakdowns” is a self-explanatory video about how the filmmakers staged some of the scenes of gory violence. “Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted?” details the making of a key fight scene involving Gilpin and Swank.

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The Invisible Man (2020)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $64.91 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some strong bloody violence and language.
Stars Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

Writer-director Leigh Whannell’s new version of The Invisible Man is a masterfully crafted example of using a relatively simple premise to build suspense while keeping the audience guessing.

The script is centered on the concept of the “invisible man” as a metaphor for the constant fear experienced by someone who escapes a traumatic situation only to wonder if they will eventually be found and hunted by their abuser.

Elisabeth Moss gives a compelling performance as Cecilia, who in the opening scenes carries out an elaborate plan to leave her boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), in the middle of the night while he sleeps. We never see their relationship in play, only hear about it second-hand from her, which immediately puts us in her head and begins the mind games that make the film so effective.

Cecilia gets word that Adrian has died, and begins to ease out of her fears once she learns he left her a $5 million inheritance. Yet she can’t shake the feeling that he’s somehow still haunting her, surmising that as a leading scientist in the field of optics he was able to construct some sort of invisibility suit.

Her friends and family begin to doubt her sanity, and even the audience is left to wonder what’s really going on, and how much of her troubles are either in her head or a result of her losing touch with reality.

Even when the film peels back the curtain about what’s really going on, we’re still left guessing as to who is doing what, who is planning what, and whether there’s another layer of manipulation we have yet to comprehend.

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And to think, the studio’s original plans for the film would have had it be a more conventional remake starring Johnny Depp as the title character, fitting into the shared “Dark Universe” of Universal movie monsters before that franchise became a non-starter after the awful 2017 version of The Mummy snuffed it out.

Instead, it was re-conceived by Whannell, co-creator (along with James Wan) of the “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises, and placed under the auspices of producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, experts at crafting low-budget suspense thrillers for big returns (even before the coronavirus lockdowns cut short its theatrical run, the film grossed $126 million worldwide against a budget o $7 million).

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The Blu-ray includes a terrific solo commentary track by Whannell, which is one of the better examples of such an accompaniment nowadays. Both witty and effusive, Whannell delves into the challenges of shooting the film in Australia to make it look like America, while setting up shots to cover the empty spaces where someone we can’t see might be standing.

The Blu-ray also includes nine deleted scenes totaling about 13-and-a-half minutes. The scenes are pretty good on their own and even inform some of the scenes in the final film, but why they were removed is understandable.

There are also four making-of featurettes that pack a lot of insight into less than a half-hour of screentime. The primary one is the 11-minute “Director’s Journey With Leigh Whannell,” which serves as a basic behind-the-scenes featurette and is a good companion to the commentary.

The four-minute “Moss Manifested” puts the spotlight on Elisabeth Moss and her interpretation of the role, and the five-and-a-half-minute “The Players” focuses on the rest of the cast.

Finally, “Timeless Terror” examines how Whannell reimagined the story and imbued it with modern themes.

Netflix’s Karen Barragan Joining Blumhouse Productions

Karen Barragan, VP of publicity for original series programming at Netflix, is leaving the SVOD pioneer to become head of marketing and communications at Blumhouse Productions.

Barragan, who has been at Netflix for the past six years promoting original series such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Ozark,” “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things,” joins a company synonymous for lower-budget horror movies (Get Out, Insidious) as well as HBO’s critically-acclaimed “Sharp Objects,” starring Amy Adams.

“Karen has been a pioneering and well-respected leader at one of the the most innovative and successful media companies in history,” Jason Blum, founder/CEO of Blumhouse, said in a statement. “We are thrilled she is joining the Blumhouse team to help bolster our global brand generate even greater anticipation and awareness for the incredible films and TV series we are producing.”

Barragan replaces Teri Everett, who reportedly was looking for a career change, despite only joining Blumhouse in 2017.

“Blumhouse is bold and fearless,” Barragan said in a statement. “I’m intrigued by the ambitious vision set out by Jason and his team and looking forward to working across film and television in this role. I take immense pride in all that the global publicity team accomplished during my tenure at Netflix and am forever indebted to Ted [Sarandos] and Cindy [Holland] for their support. It’s been an incredible ride and I reveled in every second of it.”

 

Amazon Studios Inks Production Deal with Blumhouse Television

Amazon Studios Nov. 14 announced an exclusive production deal with Jason Blum’s indie studio Blumhouse Television for a series of eight thriller/darkly-themed feature-length programs that will be released on Amazon Prime Video.

This marks Amazon Studios’ first global direct-to-service deal for feature length programs. The deal would allow the studio to broaden and reach new audiences seeking cutting-edge, elevated genre movies and fresh content. Amazon recently closed exclusive first-look deals with Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films, director Reed Morano, and Oscar winner Jordan Peele.

“Jason Blum has built an empire based on fear, shock and all things spinetingling,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “He has redefined the horror genre for fans who are hungry for high concept scares. Whether it’s found footage, a socially conscious terror comedy or a pure sinister adrenaline ride, he reinvented and infused the genre with cultural relevancy.”

Indeed, Blumhouse Television, which bowed in 2017, has earned critical acclaim and numerous honors for its dark, edgy fare including Emmy awards for its productions of HBO’s “The Normal Heart” and “The Jinx,” and documentary “How to Dance in Ohio.”

Other Blumhouse projects include a limited series for Showtime based on journalist Gabriel Sherman’s reporting on former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, starring Russell Crowe, and “Sharp Objects,” the limited series from Marti Noxon and Gillian Flynn for HBO based on Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name, starring Amy Adams and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (“Pretty Little Lies”).

The studio also produces “The Purge,” on USA Network; “Sacred Lies,” for Facebook Watch, and the holiday themed anthology event series “Into the Dark” for Hulu.

Blumhouse Productions, which is widely-recognized for its pioneering model of producing high-quality micro-budget films including The PurgeGet Out and Whiplash.

Meanwhile, Amazon Studios continues to produce and distribute theatrical movies. Up next is Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, the official Polish entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, which opens exclusively in theaters Dec. 21.

Currently in theaters are Luca Guadagnino’s  Suspiria, starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, and Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet.