‘In the tradition of Deliverance’ boasts the front of the video box for this surprisingly engaging redneck exploitation thriller with heavy slasher overtones. They ain’t shittin’ you either, Boy - large parts of HUNTER'S BLOOD play like a low-rent version of Boorman’s epic, and students of the down-home shit-kicking in-bred psycho sub-genre may also recognise the influence of Southern Comfort, Redneck County and outdoor slasher movies, especially RITUALS (1977), THE FINAL TERROR (1983) and WITHOUT WARNING (1980). If it’s a cinematic jackdaw, then at least HUNTER'S BLOOD does deliver - there’s a slew of great B-movie performers, a good chunk of the film is moderately tense and the gore, whilst sparingly used is well up to scratch. Not only that, but there’s soft-rock, Kim Delaney and some wildly over-the-top good-ol’ boy turns, from the likes of Bruce Glover and Billy Drago, which helps Hunters Blood deliver on the cheese front.
Pre-med student and charisma-bypass victim Sam Bottoms turns down the chance of some bedroom action with the nubile Kim Delaney for a trip into the boondocks for the traditional huntin’, drinkin’ and SUV drivin’ weekend with father Mason (Clu Gulager, doing a great Burt Reynolds turn as a quiet hardass), Dad’s best pal Big Al (Ken Swofford, giving the movie’s best performance), Al’s lawyer brother Ralph, and a buddy of Ralph’s, Marty (Joey Travolta, who’s main purpose is to provide potential ‘squealing’ fodder, if you know what I mean).
The group are headed down to some unspecified forest owned by Big Al’s lumber company in Al’s ludicrously big SUV, which allows director Hughes to flesh out the characters a bit and indulge his too obvious taste for mid-80‘s crap-rock. Ralph is an asshole, Marty is an idiot, David is boring and Mason and Al in the front are by a mile the most entertaining. Eventually, the group stop to buy fuel and barbeque at a backwoods garage so out of the way, that it makes the one in Wrong Turn look like a sophisticates hide-out. Marty antagonises the local in-breds by taking photos and it takes a smart move from Mason to defuse the situation and marks Gulagers character out as the dude who can handle himself, and Marty as a complete numb-nuts. This is confirmed later on when the group stop for a few beers at the local country & Western dive. After a nicely tense sequence in which David gently teases the busty gal behind the bar, the group get to have their first face off with the less-than-friendly locals, lead by Carpenter regular Charles Cyphers, with a pre-fame Billy Bob Thornton as one of the gap-toothed extras. This results in Mason smacking Cyphers around and ends with a cheap SUV chase through the woods, before the shit-kickers give up and head back to their shacks.
The boys set up camp and whilst Al, Ralph and Marty play cards and get drunk, Mason and David do some stalking and come across a pair of nervous game wardens, who draw their guns on the two hunters. They explain that the woods are lousy with poachers and bad-asses and give the traditional ‘you’re doomed if you stay’ speech, which represents the first real evidence that we’re in slasher territory - much of the run-up so far plays like a blueprint for Earl Ormsby‘s later fish-out-of-water action movie Trapper County War. As if to confirm the validity of the advice, Mason identifies that someone’s been watching the camp, showing that he’s not just one tough bastard, but also some kind of super-tracker. What a guy.
Anyhoo, The group don’t have to wait long before the local poachers turn up, arriving at night, whilst Mason and David are away from camp. We get the traditional threats of homosexual rape and mutilation, but the arrival of Mason and David force them to disappear into the forest. Not that we have to wait long, as the group, stalking a buck, stumble upon the Poacher’s camp and, after a short but vicious punch-up between Billy Drago and Gulager, the game wardens arrive and arrest some of the poachers. Unfortunately, as the game wardens march the poachers to town, they’re ambushed, shot and mutilated, leaving the poachers to escape, setting an ambush for the hunters, resulting in Mason being wounded and Ralph killed. The only option is for the vengeful Al and cowardly Marty to stretcher Mason to safety, whilst David goes Rambo and deals out some brutal revenge against the local shit-kickers.
For a short, derivative and cheap exploitation movie, HUNTER'S BLOOD delivers an awful lot in terms of enjoyment. It’s crisply paced, with a nice selection of off-the-wall lead and supporting characters who are pretty entertaining to watch, especially Gulager (who’s superb in this) and Swofford (who’s similarly impressive). If some of the material is familiar, then that’s OK, because Hughes is never confused about what he’s making - his eyes is always on the prize, no-brain-required exploitation madness!
You could argue about whether the Grandaddy of HUNTER'S BLOOD, DELIVERANCE (1972), is a slasher movie, but there’s no doubt about the grandchild - this is definitely a slasher movie - it has tense stalking scenes, the shit-kicker warning the city boys to get the hell out of Dodge, more psychos than you can poke a stick at, and gore. HUNTER'S BLOOD might not be awash with splatter, but there are some nice after-the-fact pay-offs, be it a hunting knife in the throat, a skinned game warden, decapitations and some juicy squibs. Best of all is a twitching, jerking corpse with its face blown off. Good work all round on a thin budget from Al Apone and Doug White from Make-Up Effects Labs Inc, the good people who turned the end of Evilspeak into a bloodbath.
If this doesn’t convince you of its slasher movie pedigree, the script was written by Emmett Alston, who turned out the script for NEW YEAR'S EVIL (1981). Don’t hold that against the guy, however - he delivers a much more enjoyable story this time round, although the contrivances towards the end (you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em) do make you roll your eyes a bit. That said, it’s nicely paced, with some decent sequences of both good guy and buy guys stalking each other through forests which, if never that well photographed, does provide a nice backdrop.
Alston has quite a back-catalogue in the no-budget exploitation field. Alongside penning this, and NEW YEAR'S EVIL - he’s turned out Nine Deaths of the Ninja, a sort of last gasp attempt to buy into the Sho Kosugi ninja market on the back of Sam Firstenberg’s Revenge of the Ninja and Gordon Hessler’s Pray For Death. He also delivered Demonwarp, Tigershark and a couple of other direct-to-video ninja flicks. To most audiences, his best known work is as producer to Director Andrew Chiaramonte on Twogether, an adult drama about relationships that’s pretty impressive, but sits ill-at-ease with the rest of his work. HUNTER'S BLOOD is much more typical of his work, though is better developed and shot than most.
Don’t expect anything too astounding or original with Hunter’s Blood and you’ll enjoy the moonshine gags, the gap-toothed cameo turns, the SUV worship and the odd decent make-up effect. Y’all come back soon, Y’hear!
female:0 / male:10
1) Male stabbed in the hands and head with scissors
2) Female has throat cut with scalpels
3) Female stabbed in the temples with scalpels
4) Female stabbed in the neck with scalpel
5) Man shot at close range
6) Man shot in the face
7) Man brained on hood of SUV
8) Man strangled to death
9) Man stabbed in back with deer antlers
10) Man shot and falls to death in river