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More an attack on the emergence of reality TV than a true dissertation on the man vs. man dynamic, this forgotten gem sees a group of randomly selected “participants” chosen by lottery and, gun in hand, told to kill the others for the amusement of a viewing audience. Naturally, each of the six contenders represent a thematic statement on the world in which we live (or lived, since the movie was made some 11 years ago). While the lo-fi documentary approach put some people off, the decline of civilization message came across loud and clear.
Considering that the prey in this version of the subgenre are actually kidnapped and rendered immobile, this may not be “hunting” in the most specific application of the term. Instead, what we wind up with is the ultimate example of the archetypes underpinning - meaning how far would you go to satisfy your need to torture and kill another human being? Using this simple idea, writer/director Eli Roth fashioned a modern horror classic, complete with all the button pushing brutality that launched a hundred grandiose ‘gorno’ critiques. It’s splatter as social comment.
Granted, the human hunting doesn’t really happen until the latter part of the storyline, and the motivation is more revenge than pure sport, but that doesn’t mean that this amazing adaptation of the James Dickey classic is any less effective. A group of Georgia businessmen head out into the wilderness for a little R&R. What they run into are a bunch of bloodthirsty rednecks and one cackling hillbilly rapist. As a result, the civilized become the cruel, caveman instincts of survival usurping their desire for calm and reason. It’s still as haunting today as it was four decades ago.
Okay - now we really are stretching the boundaries of this concept, but it’s important to note that the serial killer featured in David Fincher’s brilliant true life thriller actually used The Most Dangerous Game as a jumping off point for his human hunting crime spree. He even used quotes from the source in the coded manifesto he sent to San Francisco newspapers. The fiend who called himself Zodiac was doing what the original narrative suggested: use man as the ultimate prey and then suggestion your own superiority. Even with its procedural approach, the thrills are palpable.
It’s hard to believe that Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins never heard of this Japanese cult classic. An overview of storylines show stunning similarities, from the post-war set-up to the death sport as social retribution theme. Even if we grant out the lack of previous knowledge, it’s clear that human hunting offers up similarly styled approaches. For our money, this is the ultimate example of the type, a harsh and brutal denouncement of our addiction to violence as an entertainment and cure all. Of the two, this foreign masterpiece trumps the attempts by Ms. Collins to mine the same source.
// Notes from the Road
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