Opening in the same vein as a survival horror video game, Tricia Lee’s Blood Hunters carries a generous amount of macabre portent as far as it can, before descending into more generic creature feature territory in the final act.
Waking up in what at first sight appears to be a hospital, anti-heroine and heavily pregnant Ellie (Gilchrist) finds herself alone and under attack from strange creatures. Given she wasn’t pregnant when she passed out, her confusion is both understandable and darkly frightening. Teaming up with a ragtag bunch of stereotypes somehow managing to survive in the largely abandoned facility, Ellie seeks answers and an escape plan so she can return to her son.
Director and producer Lee has constructed - initially at least – a tension-filled, if somewhat generic, horror-thriller that relies on lashings of claustrophobic angst to establish a premise it struggles to see through. Gilchrist is largely impressive as the confused lead, although the cast of paint-by-numbers supporting characters follow standard arcs. Benjamin Arthur is the troubled loner with a heart of gold, Torri Higginson is the woefully misguided activist and Mark Taylor plays an intern harbouring dark secrets and incredibly high pain threshold – even having his bloody stump of a hand cauterised on a hotplate doesn’t detract him from performing an emergency caesarean section. Only horror legend Julian Richings has a handle on events, wallowing in his role as a delusional priest with less-than-holy intentions.
The turning point in the film comes with the reveal of the creatures. Resembling monsters who failed an audition for Neil Marshall’s The Descent, and while the performers within the disappointingly bland suits are impressive, the creatures carry little threat. Blood Hunters would have perhaps benefitted from less focus on the creatures themselves, and more attention given to Ellie and her hapless helpers as any interest in the characters, however routine they may be, becomes lost in the confusion of the finale.
In many ways, it is better to watch Blood Hunters without engaging with it too much. The greater your investment in the promise of the opening scenes, the more frustrating the fall into barely passable horror and ultimately weary disappointment. Lee is a good director, and showcases her talent early on, but the script never lives up to her ability and as such remains a film destined for the darker recesses of Netflix and the like.
BLOOD HUNTERS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: TRICIA LEE / SCREENPLAY: COREY BROWN / STARRING: LARA GILCHRIST, BENJAMIN ARTHUR, TORRI HIGGINSON / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE TBA