Blood Hunters are looking for you
Collaborating with her writing partner Corey Brown for nearly a decade and seeing the support from the fans with Indiegogo, brilliant filmmaker Tricia Lee returns with her third feature in the last four years focusing on the appreciation of life, the mystery of death and the darkness of science and curiosity in BLOOD HUNTERS.
Creating a RESIDENT EVIL style apocalypse film, the film formerly titled ONE DROP, finds Lee and Brown creating a SYFY channel style thriller with hints of moment-stealing and effective gore inside an underground haunted house style research lab. The story begins as a mother and junkie Ellie (Lara Gilchrist) falls to the ground outside in front of her house, seemingly passing out; lay there, alone and falling into the darkness. She awakens to find herself in what she believes to be a hospital room but upon further discovery notices that many things are wrong. Her son is missing. One of the employees is dead on the ground. She is strapped to a bed. The room is empty as well as in a shambles. Oh, and she is now nearly full term pregnant! With her mind a whirl and her panic towards the pregnancy as well as where he son is, Ellie frees herself and moves out of the room into the corridors looking for anyone and a way out. Ellie discoveries that she is not the only one who has survived what seems to be a massacre in this facility.
Ellie joins her fellow patient Henry (Benjamin Arthur) who cannot remember anything. A computer tech and programmer Marion (Torri Higginson), a male nurse (Mark Taylor), a priest (Julian Richings) and something that lurks in the dark and has been unleashed in the facility to hunt down and kill those who still are alive. As they make their way through the different dark corners, rooms and tunnels of the building, they must stay in the light as well as find a way out of the building learning what is a resource and who can trust who. As each member begins to come to grips with their lives before the massacre and going forward, influences of religion, logic and instinct collide with survival as we find out what experiments happen and the terrifying results that are created. With that knowledge, as well as learning what each member confronts in this isolated building, choices will be made and survival may come at the greatest price of all…
Lee is a talented filmmaker from the Toronto area who really has continued to emerge on the scene over the last five years especially. Each of her last few films continue to showcase the ability to tell tense and connecting stories as well as cultivate tension and find ways to create horror that work with the story instead of overshadowing it. Lee and Brown’s last two features CLEAN BREAK (2014) and SILENT RETREAT (2013) have offered viewers horror on a human scale, taking situations of all kinds and finding that connecting theme or action to show what the human monster is capable of. BLOOD HUNTERS is no different even if Lee and Brown have made more of film for the SYFY channel with this effort. This is not a knock at all as Lee, Brown and her crew continue to pump out interesting visions.
For BLOOD HUNTERS, it feels a bit lower than her previous work and storytelling talent. As I watched, I wondered if this should have been the next effort for the group to branch outside of the minimal and effective horror films they had created before praying fears with very little flash. For me, as awesome as it was to have monsters who were practical, I felt the monsters were the usual and at times it took away from story as well as the effectiveness of the practical FX and makeup work. They were popping up way to often for me.
Lee and Brown do know how to tell a story though and you see the growth here. I truly enjoyed the blending of horror tropes with religion, science and the vulnerability of humans. Isolation stories like this are some of my favorites where we see characters that we are challenged by and have trouble figuring out. However, when we do put the dramatic and macabre pieces in place, they hook us with what they feel and choose to do with that epiphany whether connected to God, guilt or a purpose to find the ones they love. The film is infused with a very cookie cutter, but at the same time an effective, set that does not need to be a strong character piece but a simply a canvas or backdrop for the talented actors who deal with this mystery and a variety of threats. The production ad set design defiantly dipped into the lighting, feel and style of the classic haunted house theme for BLOOD HUNTERS making sure the soundscape and score really found a place to work into your mind.
It was wonderful to see one of the truly great actors of the last couple of decades in Julian Richings have a meaty role of madness and religious clarity. He joins a small cast that all embodied their roles fully, including Benjamin Arthur and Lara Gilchrist who brought a very believable and, at times, sad performance surrounding their lives before these events. I don’t want to forget Torri Higginson who also played one of the most pivotal roles of the film. Her charisma and presence really sold me on her beliefs and purpose for the film which is pivotal why these events have happened in the facility. Brown and Lee definitely draw from many different influences but Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER really stuck to me for so many reasons.
The practical FX and makeup did have their moments with some very cool gore and blood work as well as scenes and FX connecting to Ellie mysterious pregnancy that made me squirm a bit. Also, just like the quality of the FX and makeup work, Brown’s writing, Lee’s direction and the cast’s execution helped create some very funny and snappy moments of dialogue that laced through the monster attacks, haunted house feel and dread that laid thick through most of the film. Listening to the lines, you feel the awkward moments and what it might be like this as the survivors cope with the horror below. This sharp and slappy dialogue was delivered wonderfully and helped to build each character.
For me, this is not Lee’s best film to date even though it did hold my attention, was enjoyable and showed growth. I have no doubt resources and schedule played into certain stages of production and deficiencies on each level. The duo of Lee and Brown are on the right track as they continue to create layered human interest stories within the shadow of horror filmmaking. I do wish however, just like Richings, they had found a role for actor Robert Nolan who is a staple of the Toronto film and horror scene as well as a damn fine actor! If you are a fan of SYFY style horror films, this is definitely a level up in quality, storytelling and characters.
See the trailer here for BLOOD HUNTERS