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Blood Hunter (VHSHitfest) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Blood Hunter (VHSHitfest) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: VHSHitfest
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: Jack Shrum, Chuck Ellis
    Cast: Jack Shrum, Chuck Ellis
    Year: 1996
    Purchase From Amazon

    Blood Hunter – Movie Review:

    Co-directed by Chuck Ellis and Jack Shrum from a script by William Shrum, 1996's Blood Hunter opens with some text that lets us know that a four hundred year old vampire named Viktor (Jack Shrum), who is "the Great, Great, Great, Great Grand Uncle of Peter The Great”, has left his native Russia and taken up residence inside a cave in rural Kentucky because rural Kentucky reminds him of his homeland. Here, he improves his superhuman abilities and learns to respect nature. During this time, he also learns how to run around outside in the daylight. He can catch arrows in his hand.

    A guy named Ralph tries to catch fish. He drinks a beer. Viktor seemingly makes ends meet by working the night shift at a twenty-four hour mechanics shop located next to a scrap year. We're told he's very good at his job and, indeed, when he fixes the pickup truck of a grumpy couple, we see this in action first hand. Unfortunately, that grump couple doesn't want to pay Viktor the $25.00 required for his services and they take off... never to be seen again. Somewhere nearby, a creepy pedophile works as a cashier at a crappy looking supermarket. He makes gross comments about how hot a pre-teen girl is. Meanwhile, some teens are looking to explore an old abandoned house in the area. Some other kids find an abandoned truck and when they open the door, a woman’s head rolls out. Nearby, in a salon, women with big hair exchange gossip.

    Much of this doesn't matter. What does matter is that Viktor kind of kidnaps a woman named Nikki (Delia Nasu Brown) and keeps her in his cave to feed off of her. At one point, a vampire woman in a red dress pops into the cave and lectures Viktor about his behavior - she might be his mother - but that doesn't stop Nikki from getting a bit of Stockholm Syndrome and falling in love with her captor. Viktor, however, has been killing off some of the local criminal element, which brings him to the attention of portly Ben Taylor (Chuck Ellis), the town sheriff who just so happens to be dating Janice (Cynthia Hudson), a waitress from the local restaurant, one of the gossipy ladies from the hair salon! They like to rent movies together, but not ones with naked butts in them. After learning from the sweaty, bearded coroner (Richard Sanders) whose office has a weird amount of closets in it that some of the recently deceased have had weird holes in their necks, Ben quickly realizes what he's up against and prepares to deal with the town's vampire problem.

    A masterpiece of stilted line delivery and awkward pauses, Blood Hunter is highlighted by an amazing cast of clearly inexperienced locals and a seriously bizarre scene where our vampire hero sprays blood out of his mouth to leave someone, maybe Sheriff Ben, a cryptic warning that makes no sense. It really is something to see. Shot on film but edited on tape, the movie uses awesome wind chime sounds far more often than it should and features our lead vampire literally popping in and out of scenes and set pieces fairly randomly, sometimes delivering witty one-liners along the way. If that isn’t enough to sell you, the movie also features a great scene set inside a local video store, giving those of us that are of a certain age a serious nostalgia rush. Oh, and Jimmie Rodgers shows up on the soundtrack – how many other vampire movies have yodeling in them? Also, some of the movie is in focus, so it has that going for it too.

    It’s all pretty wonky stuff, very languid in its pacing but entertaining from start to finish if you’re looking for something very much off the beaten path. Jack Shrum’s work in front of the camera, where he’s sporting either greasy overalls or a black trench coat, is an amazing feat of non-acting and watching him mug for the camera with his eyes sometimes red and sometimes not is a real treat. The whole thing is loaded with quirky, goofy, regional charm and it’s got more than enough “WTF?” moments in it to ensure that, even when nothing is really happening, the movie will hold your attention.

    Blood Hunter – Blu-ray Review:

    VHSHitfest brings Blood Hunter to region free Blu-ray on a 50GB framed at 1.33.1 and offered up in AVC encoded 1080i high definition taken from a tape source. This looks about as good as it probably can, given the source material available. The image is fairly soft and looks very much like the shot on tape production that it is. Detail can’t rise above the source material, nor should it. That said, it’s all very watchable. The film’s intentionally muted color scheme is replicated well and black levels are decent enough.

    Blood Hunter gets an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is on par with the video quality in that it’s limited by the source materials but perfectly acceptable given the film’s low-fi roots. Most of the time the dialogue is perfectly audible and the movie’s utterly bizarre soundtrack sounds pretty solid.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary audio commentary with director/star Jack Shrum that is interesting when he’s on but which is plagued, occasionally, by a fair bit of dead air. He talks about the script and trying to tie into "emotional tugs from people who watch these movies," the use of sound effects and wind chimes in the movie, where the original score was used, creating the opening credits on a title maker directly on VHS, who the different cast members who appeared in the movie are and how they wound up in the movie in the first place, the different locations that were used, what it was like on set and having to wear overalls in hot weather, hoping to get the movie out to exploit the booming home video market and more.

    The disc also includes a fifty minute making of featurette titled From Russia With Blood that interviews Shrum, his father Bill Shrum (who wrote the movie!), his mother Linda Shrum and actor Jeremy Whittington who had a small role as one of the punks in the movie. Jack Shrum talks about making movies as a kid, Bill talks about his background and we learn from these two how the movie came to be. Linda chimes in with her input here and there as well and we get a bit of a family history. We also learn how Chuck Ellis came to be in the movie and how close everyone was to him, getting the script finished and turning it into the feature movie, the anti-hero aspects of the Viktor character, shooting the movie on 16mm, what Chuck Ellis did as far as his co-director credit goes, how the locals in the small town where the movie was made were excited that it was happening, specific memories of the shoot, getting the film released on VHS and more. Interesting stuff!

    Also included here is a seven minute intro from a screening of the movie that took place in Hamilton, Ontario of all places featuring Shrum, a three minute ‘now and then’ style featurette that compares the locations used in the movie then to how they appear in the modern day, ninety-three minutes of raw footage from the shoot (presented without any audio) and a quick but amusing three minutes’ worth of local news footage talking about the making of the movie.

    The disc also includes menus and chapter selection options as well as at least two Easter Eggs you can find by poking around on the menu. It also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Blood Hunter – The Final Word:

    Blood Hunter may be a seriously unlikely candidate for a special edition Blu-ray release, but here we are with just that. VHSHitfest has really rolled out the red carpet for this one, giving this ridiculously obscure movie the deluxe treatment – and we’re all in their debt for it.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Blood Hunter Blu-ray screen caps!

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