Has a certain teen lit sensation a.k.a. The Hunger Games left you 'hungry' for more. Here's our list of ten alternate examples of the 'man as prey' premise.
If humankind is the most dangerous animal on the planet, then hunting man is the most dangerous game. That's the basis for the longstanding entertainment trope known as the survivalist or human prey genre. Began by an infamous short story and extrapolated out across numerous categories both realistic (action, thriller) and silly (comedy???), the tracking and killing of other people have come to symbolize everything that's wrong with society. From the desire to destroy to the acknowledgment of taboo, titles like the ones listed below always spark controversy. Only cannibalism and child sexualization are more scandalous in substance and subtext.
So it's odd that a big screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hugely popular young adult book series, The Hunger Games, is viewed as the most mainstream of materials. With its kids killing kids core and rich vs.l poor patina, it should be garnering protests, not praise. And yet, right now, the film is poised to be a massive hit, marking the moment when a bestselling phenomenon on a touchy subject became the stuff of everyday praise. For our money, there are at least ten examples where the main narrative theme plays out better, and more bravely (for all its provocation, Games keeps much of its violence off-screen). As a result, here is our collection of cold-blooded sadism passing as social commentary, movies that make it very clear that, in the battle between individuals, surviving is the least important outcome, beginning with:
10. The Woman Hunt
A byproduct of the dying exploitation industry and rise in sleazoid '70s drive-in fare, this Jack Hill/Eddie Romero romp features a batty premise (a rich man rounding up women as prostitutes and prey?), a sensational cast (Sig Haig, John Ashley) and enough bare breasts to keep the teen male target audience in check. More low budget action than social commentary horror, it represents the kind of purposeful pandering that made a trip to the local Me Decade passion pit a hot and steamy time. While sordid and too silly for words, it's still a decent bit of human hunting.
Based loosely on the atrocities committed by Charles Whitman at the University of Texas (he climbed a tower and shot random people one by one), director Peter Bogdanovich took a Roger Corman mandate and crafted a clever meditation on madness and fading film stardom. Required to use Boris Karloff and clips from the film The Terror, the untested filmmaker found a way to turn his rampaging killer into a critique of the counterculture, while simultaneously exploring the nature of fame and fandom. It got him noticed by the movie industry mainstream.
8. Hard Target
After a fantastic run which included The Killer, Hard Boiled, and the Better Tomorrow titles, Hong Kong action master John Woo brought his talents to the USA and was immediately thrust into this starring vehicle for ancillary action hunk Jean-Claude Van Damme. The story centered on a rich eccentric (Lance Henriksen) who hunts the homeless in New Orleans. Our lead is the lug who discovers the truth and plans to stop it or die trying. Run of the mill narrative-wise, it featured enough of Woo's directorial magic to prove his moviemaking mantle.
7. The Running Man
Fans of the Stephen King/Richard Bachman book must have bristled when they saw what Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Michael Glazer (yes, Starsky of Starsky and Hutch fame) did to this story of a dystopian society and the gory game show where citizens are pitted against hitmen in a battle to the death. Offering a more satiric take on the material, the movie gave Richard Dawson a chance to mock his Family Feud persona while providing fans of the Terminator a whole new slew of catchphrases ("You've been canceled!" "Now, just plain zero!"). It remains a half-serious hoot.
6. The Most Dangerous Game
Based on the 1924 story by Richard Connell and set within the questionable world of big game hunting (still a noble pursuit in the early half of the 20th century), this was the movie that started it all. While this adaptation modified much of the narrative and even added a few new characters, it remains true to the concepts Connell was trying to champion. Revolving around the "challenge," or lack thereof, within the bloodthirsty sport, it's the foundation for such modern reinterpretations as the movies discussed here.