Image: Universal Pictures

If you have to pick just one movie to see in theaters this week — not that we recommend that plan, considering the very real threat of posed by the Coronavirus outbreak — Blumhouse’s controversial action-horror film The Hunt might actually be worth the risk.

[Editor’s Note: No movie is worth dying for; just re-stating the obvious here.]

Inspired by the classic tale The Most Dangerous Game (which has inspired countless adaptations and riffs on the same basic theme), The Hunt is the story of a pre-selected but seemingly random group of strangers who are kidnapped and placed into a deadly game of cat and mouse — as they try to survive long enough to figure out who is controlling the game and possibly guiding its outcome.

If you’re onboard with that premise, then strap yourself in for a wild ride, which comes out swinging and keeps drawing you in with twists and turns, refusing to let up until the credits roll.

While it doesn’t forward any specific political agenda (despite many viewers trying to imprint their own), The Hunt does tap into some of the same socio-political themes as The Hunger Games, then mashes that together with the anarchic violence of Battle Royale (which itself inspired the Hunger Games novels and subsequent films).

The end result is an ultra-fast-paced action thriller that mercilessly splatters the screen with some of the most gleefully insane and gory deaths I’ve seen in a while, and balances this pure grisly escapism with broad-stroke social satire and pitch-black humor.

While Blumhouse managed to sign on several familiar Hollywood faces — including Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz and Emma Roberts — it’s Betty Gilpin (pictured above) and her exotic, twisted, bizarrely mesmerizing performance that outshines them all. Gilpen channels a character that’s wickedly pleasing to root for, and she deserves a lot more work thanks to her breakout role here.

To follow through on my earlier mention of The Hunt‘s extremely high gore factor: those of you extreme-horror fans who are sick of relatively bloodless PG-13 horror fare, I’m more than happy to tell you that this is one of those rare wide-release horror flicks that totally owns its hard R-rating — rewarding gore-hounds with all the exploding bodies, head-bashing and gut-stabbing you need to hold them over until the next SAW installment.

Overall, The Hunt is probably not at all what you were expecting: it’s more twisted, morbidly funny, delightfully gory, and above all it never fails to excite and entertain from start to finish. Time will fly with this one — and so will a fair share of human heads.