Blood Hunter is a campy 1996 regional horror gem about a crime-fighting vampire living in the backwoods of Kentucky. As cops are slowly closing in on Viktor the vampire avenger he finds true love while dispatching his own form of justice. Full of Appalachian attitudes and heaps of vampire tropes the film is an entertaining mess tailor-made for cult audiences to appreciate. VHShitfest brings the lost gem to Blu-ray with a resectable A/V transfer and a wealth of special features to feed your bloodlust. Recommended.
“I am just someone with a special diet.”
Blood Hunter is that age-old tale of vigilante justice at the hands of a 400-year-old vampire looking to improve the lives of backwoods Kentucky folk. The film opens with narration and text that quickly breaks the “show don’t tell” rule of filmmaking. However, it allows directors Jack Shrum and Chuck Ellis to put us in moody Appalachia where everyone is kinda rude and bitchy. Just imagine what a 90’s fan film of True Blood would look like and you’ve got this memorable feature.
Viktor (Shrum) is the 4x great uncle of Peter the Great hoping to “refine his special skills of speed and agility” in America but when 20th century overpopulation and pollution threaten his existence he takes matters into his own hands. Working nights as a junkyard mechanic, Viktor preys upon the locals who live dishonestly. His victims include a pedophile, two rapists, and a group of night hunters killing fawns. However, when the drained corpses are discovered by Sheriff Ben Taylor (Chuck Ellis) the investigation rattles Viktor and his new human love interest.
Blood Hunter is an ambitious horror flick full of vampire tropes and horror clichés but enough local charm and humor to redeem itself. Shrum casts himself in the role of Viktor which is an excellent choice as he is fully committed to this character. Every close-up, every line delivery is couched in his holier-than-thou attitude. Off-putting? Sure. Campy? Yes! The puns don’t stop with Viktor cracking wise at every turn like a student from the Freddy Krueger school of comedy. My favorite is his comment to a group of hunters: “Deer me, isn't hunting illegal at night?”
Where the film shines for me is in the casting and performances. The Kentucky accents are deep and add plenty of charm. Attempting to coach actors into producing the correct drawl would be agony compared to experiencing the genuine article. Everyone looks the part, too. Beauty salon busybodies, creepy store clerks, and redneck teenagers spitting tobacco are all stone-cold copies of people I knew growing up in West Virginia. Unfortunately, they can't escape the stilted dialogue that could use a few more drafts. Naturalism isn’t on the menu for this one, kids.
To achieve the supernatural, Blood Hunter worked within its limitations to produce its cheesy in-camera effects. Viktor seemingly disappears from his victims but in reality, the camera just pans back and forth while Shrum walks off scene. Though there is a singular gory moment with a dead hunter’s eyeball dripping with strawberry syrup. Good effort here, I’ll allow it. Overall the tone is more mysterious and moody rather than blood fest. However, the writing is on the wall in one particular scene in which Viktor leaves a bloody riddle for the authorities chasing him down.
My favorite part of the film is when the Sheriff’s main squeeze Janice stops by the local video store. She picks up two new releases and pays the unheard-of price of $3 dollars! What a bargain! Bring back VHS! Then during date night, Sheriff Taylor provides some reasonable criticism on character identity through wardrobe in classic cowboy flicks: “I don’t just don’t like seeing a guy’s naked butt in a western.” Agree to disagree, Sheriff.
Honestly, the script isn’t too bad but it needs one more draft to cut the grammar police infecting the dialogue like an 8th-grade essay. Surprisingly it hits all the right beats, has some humor, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Except for Shrum who is all business. Blood Hunter is imbued with a southern twang making this vigilante tale highly entertaining. A vampire who hunts only criminals? Count me in. I’d double feature this one with John Russo’s Midnight to catch a fever of backwoods paranoia.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Blood Hunter arrives on Blu-ray thanks to VHShitfest with Vinegar Syndrome. The All-Region disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork. If you order from Vinegar Syndrom you pick up a slipcover. Loading the disc presents the VHShitfest logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with typical navigation options adjacent to scenes from the film.
Blood Hunter makes the nocturnal leap to Blu-ray with a respectable HD image in the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. While the film was shot in 16mm only a single scene was filmed on VHS. Film grain is retained here with some noticeable depth and color. Blues and reds appear stronger in the subdued color palette. Greens are prominent in the Kentucky backwoods where most of the action takes place. Contrast is high but thankfully the black levels don’t suffer like Viktor’s redneck victims.
Detail is severely lacking at times though close-ups reveal moderate levels highlighting the vampire makeup and costuming. This feature is dark as hell which causes most nighttime scenes to disappear into blackness. Specks, lines, and dirt are apparent throughout the feature. Overall a pleasing HD image considering the pedigree of the film.
The supplied DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is unrefined and sloppy not unlike Sheriff Taylor. Dialogue is clear though hiss is prevalent. Post-recorded dialogue exchanges occupy most of the feature with on-set recordings infused with fuzz and hiss. Ominous synth tracks layered with gothic vocal stylings fill the scenes that don’t feature twangy country tunes. It’s an interesting mix of music cues but for an Appalachian vampire story it works surprisingly well.
English subtitles are available.
VHShitfest offers over 3 hours of bonus features for Blood Hunter! Start with the commentary track before checking out the Q&A. Finally put on the Raw Footage featurette while you mill about the house doing laundry. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
Blood Hunter is an entertaining regional horror flick with a solid story and committed cast. Shrum and Ellis craft an ambitious feature set in the backwoods of Kentucky infused with a campy central performance. The performances and smalltown flare add an infectious charm that nearly hides any shortcomings. VHShitfest brings the killer flick to Blu-ray with a respectable A/V presentation and plenty of special features to sink your teeth into. Recommended.