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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cult Film Faves Not On DVD: Hunter's Blood (1986) review


Samuel Bottoms (David Rand), Kim Delaney (Melanie), Clu Gulager (Mason Rand), Joey Travolta (Marty Adler), Bruce Glover (One Eye), Billy Drago (Snake), Charles Cyphers (Woody)

Directed by Robert C. Hughes

The Short Version: A late blooming entry in the backwoods sweepstakes has five hunters from the city clashing with brutish hillbillies in Arkansas who run an illegal meat company. A number of familiar genre faces and some splashy gore enhance this well made and sadly obscure hillbilly horror hybrid.

A group of suburbanites, including a father and his son, head off on a quiet hunting vacation in the Arkansas wilderness. What was intended as a relaxing weekend getaway turns into a trip of terror after the city dwelling interlopers run into a passel of maniacal hillbilly poachers. Using their wits, the hunters must fight back and hope to make it out of the dense woods alive.

With its roots firmly planted in the same mountainous and dangerous terrain as DELIVERANCE (1972) and RITUALS (1978), HUNTER'S BLOOD is one of the best of the hixploitation action thrillers that is cross pollinated with horror movie conventions. Sporting quite a pedigree in front of the camera, it's most surprising that this film has yet to land a legitimate DVD release. The movie is also based on a novel by Jere Cunningham. Writer, Emmett Alston, was also a "capable" hand at directing cinematic trash with efforts like the moderately suspenseful slasher NEW YEARS EVIL (1980), the utterly ridiculous 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA (1985) starring Sho Kosugi and the awful DEMONWARP (1988).

The boys discover the gruesome handiwork of the hillbillies; insert: Bruce Glover

The violence level in this Hixploitation throwback is moderate, but makes a strong impression when it happens. The director and his crew are very successful in creating a motley clutch of cretinous sadists and a seething atmosphere of dread. Once the "city slickers" have put their lives in serious peril, the rednecks brutally show they mean business after escaping the arresting arms of two hapless game wardens. A man skinned and carved up, a decapitation, a point blank shotgun blast to the face and a deer antler impaling are some of the highlights. A knife to the throat and several generously splashy blood squibs round out the gore.

Clu Gulager; insert: Samuel Bottoms

Clu Gulager takes command of the picture and provides an energy that grounds everyone else. He's definitely into his role here. The tension is ratcheted up extensively when he gets injured midway through the movie. With the most clear headed and confident member of the group now wounded, the remainder of the hunters have to pull themselves together to survive. Gulager was, at the time, enjoying an upsurge of popularity among the horror film cognoscenti after his enormously kinetic performance in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). More horror followed for this cult film actor including NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 (1985) and the gruesome anthology FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (1988).

Billy Drago, one of the screens most scary and suitably villainous visages plays Snake, one of the main characters of the redneck savages. Drago made a career on the DTV market playing one creepy bad guy after another. One of his biggest roles was as Ramon, the lead heavy in the Chuck Norris actioner DELTA FORCE 2 (1990), one of the last theatrical releases from The Cannon Group.

Kim Delaney is menaced by Mickey Jones; insert Joey Travolta, John's brother

Kim Delaney, who has a minor role here as Sam Bottoms girlfriend, Melanie, will likely be best known for her regular role on the popular crime series, NYPD BLUE. Delaney has done her fair share of genre work including being menaced by THE DRIFTER in 1988 and a metallic werewolf monstrosity in PROJECT: METALBEAST in 1995. In HUNTER'S BLOOD, Delaney provides the requisite eye candy and also figures prominently in the films conclusion. John Travolta's brother, Joey, is the stereotypical annoying and frantic character who can't remain calm under stress. He's also the one member of the group who hypes up his hunting skills which turn out to be virtually non existent.

Those with a fondness for 'Slaughter In the Woods' movies and backwoods actioners will have a field day with HUNTER'S BLOOD. Rarely discussed, it's a far better movie than similar excursions such as DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1982) and THE FINAL TERROR (1983), but comparable to, if not exceeding such brooding horror films like Jeff Lieberman's celebrated JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980). Possessing a high caliber of genre thespians and some slick set pieces, this obscure action horror hybrid doesn't deserve to be lost in the woods.


Andrew said...

One of those 80s gems that one could have caught on the USA Network around 3 am in 1992.

Get this one on DVD STAT!

venoms5 said...

I remember the first time I saw it was at a friends house. His dad rented it the day it hit the video store, that and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. I was 11 at the time so that was a helluva double feature.

Maynard Morrissey said...

hey, never heard of this one before. must check it out!

venoms5 said...

It's a good flick, Maynard. Hope you enjoy it. A DVD with a commentary at least would be great.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Same with MM, this is the first I have heard of it, R1 release soon? Billy Drago doesnt even need to act, he is the most frightening person I have ever met. Ever.

venoms5 said...

It was a bit bizarre watching a double feature of this and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE in 1986 or '87 with my friend and his dad.

You met Billy Drago? What's the low down on that meeting, Carl?

I Like Horror Movies said...

Frightening. According to Drago, he doesn't act, he simply lets people pay him to film him. He is one of the single strangest people I have ever met in my life. Our interaction was short, but mainly focused on my wife's earrings and how she had an old soul. I don't think there's a difference between the screen Drago and the Drago Drago.

venoms5 said...

Maybe that straw he was snorting coke with got jammed into his brain when Richard Lynch smashed his face down into it in INVASION USA (1985)?

Ty said...

Always wanted to see this! Billy Drago is always entertaining.

venoms5 said...

Hi, Ty. It's definitely worth tracking down and a shame it didn't get a DVD release. Lots of familiar faces in this one, too.

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