This is a film site, so I'll discuss the movie on its merits before commenting on what I see as a very upsetting agenda within this film. Feel free to read and enjoy only the critique on the technical aspects of the film, and I'll let you know when it'll move on from that....
If your working on a low budget, and you happen to be based in the UK, there are worse things you can do than film your movie in my home land of Scotland. You need a sense of total isolation? You got it. You need a landscape so untouched by civilisation that it commands respect even when viewed through the lens of a camera? Well, you got that too. You need a sense of majesty in your cinematography? An epic sweep that can make your humble little indie film look like a million bucks? Yep, got it.
Recently, Writer/Director, Neil Marshall, (THE DESCENT/DOG SOLDIERS), filmed his latest work, CENTURION in the Highlands of Scotland, and it done the film absolute wonders. His blood drenched tale of the missing 'Ninth Legion', of Rome, utilised the untouched, desolate and utterly beautiful landscape of my home, to essentially create a danger for his desperate Roman Brigade that was every bit as dangerous as the Scottish Pict's who were hunting them. Its a trick our old pal, Mel Gibson, missed when he decided to film a biopic of Scottish hero, William Wallace, in Ireland. Ireland is a beautiful country, but Scotland has its own irreplaceable character, theres a sense of sadness and mourning that lies over its more remote lands that can't be found anywhere else in the world. Perhaps its her history, perhaps its the way the light and the weather interact here that creates such a haunting beauty. Whatever it is, its unique. And its a perfect environment for a survival horror film.
The team behind BLOODED have made a wise decision in their filming location. Though that's not to take anything away from the absolute brilliance of Kate Reid's cinematography. Her work here is simply stellar, and is reason enough to see this film at least once. She manages to capture the essence of what makes Scotland such a beloved country to so many around the world, much as Peter Jackson captured New Zealand's untouchable beauty in his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. But perhaps theres a finer comparison can be made; that of Australian Horror Autuer Greg McClean, who's films, WOLF CREEK and ROGUE managed to capture not only the wonder of Australia's outback, but also its ferocity. The cinematography here is that good, and the film looks utterly brilliant. Reid's eye for a shot is surely going to set her career on a very successful path, and as I said, it really is worth viewing BLOODED for her work alone. Its a shame then that so many other elements of it feel lukewarm. And some I actually found downright insulting.
Stylistically, we've seen this type of film many times before; the pseudo-documentary that uses 'real' footage, interviews with the survivors of the ordeal and 'recreated footage' to tell its story. And its all done fairly well. The acting is solid enough, the standout being Adam Best as 'Interview version Ben Fitzpatrick', who pulls out a very real performance as the loyal, regretful mate of our focal character, Lucas Bell. All the performances are believable enough, and the film has a solid, focused pace, but its undercut by two lethal errors for a film of this type, or any for that matter.
The first is the use of interview's with the survivors. You know from the get go, who's going to survive, so its goodbye tension. The similar, yet superior, 'THE TUNNEL' suffered from the same problem earlier this year. In that case the setting and the sense of mystery helped pull the film through, and it remained a scary experience, but in BLOODED, there is no mystery, we KNOW why these people are being hunted, and we know who's doing it, so all sense of surprise and apprehension is lost.
I'll give you an example. In the pivotal, (and best) scene in the film, we follow our hunting pals as they wake up, half naked and completely disoriented in the wilds of the Highlands, with no idea how they got there. The scene bristles with atmosphere, and should be completely unnerving, but we KNOW they'll all be home in time for Pizza before too long. These moments are very well directed, just as the whole film is, but they lack the power to scare. If we had no idea what was coming, we would be 100% in the scene, but instead we're left wondering what the point of it all is.
Theres more though, even if the outcome was unknown, you just might be begging for these people to die anyway. Its hard to garner sympathy for a bunch of spoiled rich kids who get a kick out of killing wild animals. Your far more likely to find yourself cheering on the activists. And here's where the film became insulting to me. I'm loathe to discuss this, but I feel I must.
You see, theres a HUGE difference between a barbaric and cruel sport such as fox hunting, and the act of hunting for reasons of survival and population control. Yet here, we're asked not only to sympathise with a guy who supports fox hunting with all his heart, but we're asked to admire him! Now, this isn't a political sight by any means, and never will be, but I have a moral code, and its one which my taste in cinema has never before encroached upon. I do not believe in any form of censorship in cinema, and I rarely find anything insulting outside geopolitics and the lies of our governments worldwide, but this shit was going too far. For me, to watch a film that I can only see as blatant pro-hunting propaganda, was pretty damn infuriating. If it had been left to the audience to decide what side to take, I would have no problem with it, but to attempt to paint 'sport killers' as noble men of the land, and paint animal rights activists as lunatics, just doesn't sit right in my heart. Whether it sits right in yours is your own issue.
I can't recommend this film. It has much to admire, and I wish the cast and crew all the best, but for the first, and hopefully last time in the Hotel, I have to take a moral stance. The solid technical attributes of this film cannot mask its clear agenda, and so if your in any way opposed to animal cruelty, you may want to avoid this film or risk an ulcer. It's a real shame to see such beautiful cinematography wasted on such a biased and compassion free endeavor.
1 Disgusting Propaganda Tool out of 10
(Authors note : After writing this review, I decided to look a little deeper into this matter of the propaganda that I felt was implicit in the film. I've come to learn that the film was promoted as having really taken place. In other words, animal rights activists were used as scapegoats to promote this trash. Quite rightly, they are offended and disgusted by the actions taken by the production team. Its a free country, but FUCK this movie. You wanna see the Highlands? Come visit Scotland and I'll take you for a pint, but we ain't goin' fox hunting).