Blood Hunters is the latest film from director Tricia Lee whose previous films included psycho drama Clean Break and the bloody Silent Retreat. Those two films were written by Corey Brown who returns to write this one as well. I have been doing news posts about this movie for years, originally hearing about it back in 2015 when it was still known as One Drop so it is nice to see it finally being released. This is a creature feature that had a captivating premise but which did settle into something more familiar within its genre.
Ellie (Lara Gilchrist from Battlestar Galactica) awakens in a strange facility with no memory of how she got there, or how she came to be heavily pregnant. She soon discovers that something has killed the entire staff of the facility with dead bodies littering the rooms and corridors of the vast underground place. Eventually she meets up with a handful of other survivors that include another patient (Benjamin Arthur as Henry), an intern (Mark Taylor), an I.T consultant; Marion (Torri Higginson from Stargate: Atlantis), and Father Stewart (Julian Richings known for Cube, The VVitch: A New England Folktale, and Wrong Turn). Together they must find a way to escape their prison which has become infested with lethal blood thirsty creatures..
While I did enjoy my time with Blood Hunters it didn't really do too much to stand out from other films of its type. From the slow reveal of the creature or creatures responsible for the carnage to the attempts to combat this threat it was all entertaining enough but I couldn't shake a feeling of deja-vu. However I did enjoy the set-up with the viewer being no more clued in than Ellie herself. As always seems to be with way with Lee's films we get a strong and independent main female lead which is never a bad thing to have. Despite being heavily pregnant she is no damsel in distress, nor does she crumble under the pressure of the very strange circumstance she has found herself in. This is countered somewhat by Henry with it framed to make him seem at first seem suspicious (or maybe that was just me). I did like how much I warmed to this character over the films run time and the fact he had some type of psychic ability gave him something different. He too is pretty collected also, well even more so than Ellie seeing the amount of jokes he cracks, there was a feeling that he wasn't really the sharpest tool in the box. It is the rest of the small cast that really bring things together though as each of them are multi-layered and everyone has their fair share of very dark secrets. Stand out for me was Richings as the weaselly priest, this role seemed built for him which was helped by his perfect delivery of his lines.
Near enough the whole of Blood Hunters takes place in a series of medical rooms and corridors, as such there isn't a lot of variation in set design but I liked the dead bodies everywhere that hinted at the mayhem that Ellie must have just missed prior to waking up. In a way it reminded me of Resident Evil though instead of hundreds of zombies we instead have a handful of albino looking child sized monsters. These creatures are only hinted at for the film's first half, nifty use of editing and direction has them scrambling around in the deep background, or extremely up close so you never get a solid look of how they actually appear. The sound effects for them are decent enough but for me they never looked that fearsome an enemy. Their aversion to light brought about the main thematic plot element of the characters having to keep finding light sources to repel them, whether from candles, from the unreliable generator, or from torches. I think it was this particular part that really made me think of other films that use similar tricks whether by light (Pitch Black), sight (Train to Busan), or other types of antagonist weaknesses.
I did enjoy the plot, or rather the specifics of what it entailed, the whole escaping the building and stopping the threat was fine enough, it was more the explanation for how it all occurred that was interesting to me with a back story that was fresh feeling. I found some of the motivations for characters may have been hampered by budget though, a later part of the film has the group desperately trying to stop the creatures escaping, but for me to be honest I couldn't really see the harm if they did escape, it's not like there were hundreds of the things and it didn't seem like they had any ability to reproduce. Due to this difference in opinion I found it a bit hard to relate to actions the people make when they could have just left things up to the Gods (and probably the army). Having a pregnant main lead felt like something different with one scene in particular standing out due to the contrast between an attacking creature in the background and pregnancy issues in the foreground.
This was a fun horror film, while on occasion it did feel a little bit too familiar it created within it a believable sense of place, and succeeded in giving its cast more than just one dimensional cardboard cutouts to portray. It is always good to see Lee's female perspective on the horror genre as female directors are a rare breed. Blood Hunters is getting a theatrical run at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto starting July 7th, while the film is coming to DVD, VOD and all Digital platforms in Canada and the USA on July 4th. Check out the trailer below.