Universal Pictures has announced it’s cancelling the release of its upcoming thriller The Hunt after “thoughtful consideration.”
“We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller,” the company said in a statement. “But we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”
The Hunt, which stars Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Betty Gilpin (Glow) and Justin Hartley (This Is Us), centres around 12 strangers who gather at a remote lodge and gun down humans for sport.
Marketing for the movie, which began just before the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, last weekend, was pulled soon after the shootings following backlash.
A shooter who investigators say was targeting Mexicans opened fire in an El Paso Walmart Aug. 3. Twenty-two people were killed and two dozen others were injured. Less than 24 hours later, another gunman killed nine people and injured at least 30 in a popular Dayton nightlife area.
The previous week, a mass shooting on July 28 at the Gilroy Garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., left three dead and 13 injured. The gunman was killed.
One trailer for The Hunt showed characters in the film brandishing assault rifles and dressed in camouflage gear. The satirical voiceover serves as an ad within an ad, inviting elite hunters to experience the “ultimate in luxury.”
“You will realize that hunting is not just a sport,” the announcer says. “It is a five-star boutique experience.”
The horror film is produced by Blumhouse, the same company behind other political and social satires such as The Purge and Get Out. Get Out won Jordan Peele an Oscar in 2018 for best original screenplay.
The prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. has forced other productions to re-evaluate their content in the past.
In 2018, the TV series Heathers — a reboot of the 1988 dark comedy which parodied high school violence — experienced delays and eventually pulled episodes following school shootings in Sante Fe, Texas, and Parkland, Fla., as well as a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Penn.
In 2016, the premiere of the TV drama series Shooter was postponed after a group of police officers were ambushed in Dallas, Texas. It was pulled again after three Baton Rouge police officers were killed that same summer but eventually returned to the air several months later.
According to several media outlets, the premise of The Hunt is particularly controversial because the gun-toters in question are conservatives who have been brought together in a game organized by liberal elites.
Trump calls out film in tweets
In a series of tweets, Donald Trump appeared to criticize the film without naming it specifically.
“The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos,” he posted Friday, calling “liberal” Hollywood “racist at the highest level.”
The Hunt was originally set to be released in theatres Sept. 27.
BREAKING: Universal has cancelled the release of Blumhouse’s new film The Hunt. <a href=”https://t.co/hhIHTelbGX”>pic.twitter.com/hhIHTelbGX</a>