You can’t deny that a film’s synopsis about a bunch of activists chasing a bunch of semi-naked hunt supporters across the Scottish glens doesn’t sound a tad appealing? And that’s the immediate hook of debut director Edward Boase’s new ‘blood sports’ film, Blooded. The first issue to overcome, though, is ‘realism syndrome’, where everything slightly sinister or scary on film, nowadays, has to have grainy ‘real-life’ footage added to make any of the events anywhere near believable or effective. This is the amusing irony of cinematic production values that usually strive for the best quality in any other genre. This handy-cam footage determines whether such a film sinks or swims.
Blooded sinks slower and slower into the peaty bogs of the stunning Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland where it is set because, although it has said footage, it piles faux documentary footage on top of faux documentary footage that the end result is just screaming for a feature film to have been made instead, regardless of the real-life news footage at the front to give it a sense of authenticity.
Blooded is effective in the sense that if you didn’t know that everything you’re about to watch isn’t real, from the people involved to the supposed ‘The Real Animal League’ who are on the prowl, it makes you curious and impatient, wanting to watch until the very end to (hopefully) see the ‘real’ victims and their outcome. However, the latter is irrelevant because all the characters are present and being interviewed in front of the camera throughout, but it’s what could happen to them over the fateful period keeps you watching.
Told as a documentary, five friends (two of them estranged brothers, one of which is a known pro-hunting activist called Lucas Bell (Nick Ashdon)) go to Mull for a spot of deer hunting. After a successful virgin kill by their American companion Eve (Tracy Ifeachor) who gets ‘bloodied’ – blood smeared on her face to symbolised her first kill, the friends bunk down for the night. However, it’s clear that Lucas and his on-off love Liv Scott (Cicely Tennant) have had a quarrel, and he goes off into the night. Cut to daylight the next morning, and each of our friends finds themselves alone and in their undies, confused, freezing and out in the isolated countryside of Mull. Did someone spike the whiskey last night? That’s the big question, but once the shots start raining down on them, and balaclava-wearing men with their rifles chased them across country, they soon discover that they are being hunted.
The first thing that jars is the use of two sets of actors to play ‘interviewee’ and ‘reconstruction victim’. This may work when the interviewees are the real McCoy, but just seems a little overkill in hindsight. Some of the interviewees/victims try and fail to come across as anything but scripted and theatrical to camera, not quite getting the right balance of emotion, and this is the first thing that triggers a glimmer of disbelief for the viewer. Crimewatch reconstructions have evoked far more sympathy and had better actors, to be honest. In fact Blooded is like an extended feature of the TV crime programme at times. That said the grungy, urban film score Ilan Eshkeri of Kick-Ass and Stardust fame suitably accompanies the visuals and gets the adrenaline flowing.
You can appreciate how Boase is trying to show human evolution against nature’s surroundings by stripping the actors back to their bare skin (near enough), and making them look helpless without their clothing and technology, and there are some compelling and beautiful snapshots when each victim awakens, and their bodies intertwine with the undergrowth, or when they run across the picturesque terrain, totally out of place in their birthday suits. However, the ladies, and Ifeacher in particular, seem like they are doing an M&S undies ad, or a perverse ad for hermit holidays on Mull. The attractive, female Amazonian cast go to lessen authenticity and our much-needed empathy, but this may have something to do with the fudged character development at the start of the film that is prone to meandering and pregnant pauses of supposed ‘tension’.
Those hoping for a bit of gore, too – beast or human kind – will have to make do with the gutting of the deer after the kill. What’s more interesting on the DVD is the ‘making off’ feature that tells how this was a one-take opportunity, with actor Joseph Kloska having to really get in there up to his armpits in hot deer innards. For horror enthusiasts, though, there is decidedly less blood than expected. This is no isolation horror flick, but there is a shocking moment that involves missing Lucas that has a nice, surprise twist to it.
The film does show the anti-hunting activists as demonised IRA-styled terrorists in fatigues and balaclavas, but however well tooled them may be, Boase does try to show their disorganisation and mutiny in the ranks. They still remain virtually faceless thugs, though, meaning emphasise appears to be on empathising with the pro-hunting bunch of victims. It is interesting, though, that both sides have faults as beings, and that the film-makers’ aim to show the extent of extremism, rather than focusing on the issue of hunting, is apparent. Indeed, the real cause or issue is lost when violence is introduced.
Boase tests the water in this genre, making a visually compelling and musically emotive film that tackles extremism. But it cannot avoid the hunting debate, and is in all intents and purposes a film about the controversy, with an unbalanced slant as the hunters who become the hunted are the only people we can put a face to, and therefore, feel anything for. Some of his actors let him down because their reactions during interview damage any veracity we need to feel. We have all seen Blair Witch, so the stakes in this type of film-making are a lot higher. Still, on a small budget, Blooded is a commendable entry-level film that does stoke the debate on the wider issues it tries to tackle.
Available via download & on demand APRIL 1st 2011, further details available from the official site at the following:
ONLINE – http://www.bloodedmovie.com/online.html (LoveFilm, iTunes, BlinkBox)
ON TV – http://www.bloodedmovie.com/ontv.html (FilmFlex, Playstation, Sky Box Office)