(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)

Blooded, out now on DVD, is a genre-bender, a story that could have been a merely melodramatic shock piece. However director Ed Boase, another first timer, presents it as a sober documentary. The story is an old one; in fact, it’s a variant on a classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” Written in 1924 by Richard Connell, the original tale had a hardy huntsman being marooned on an island where he meets one General Zarroff. This Cossack aristo has hunted every animal on the planet and now gets his kicks gunning for humans. There have been many screen versions and rip-offs, but the most famous is a 1932 film, sometimes called The Hounds of Zarroff, made in tandem with King Kong with the same sets and distressed damsel (Fay Wray).

Blooded updates the scenario to present-day Britain in a way that’s all-too-believable, with the tag, “If you hunt, it’s fair game.” We open with real footage of the 2004 hunting ban and the bitter backlash, and meet Lucas Bell, a fearless young defender of country traditions in the mould of Otis Ferry. Forced into a low profile, Bell takes a break on a remote Scottish island with four friends, including his ex-girlfriend and semi-estranged brother. But word of the outing has leaked, and the Real Animal League is out to teach them a brutal lesson.

What’s ingenious, though, is how the film is framed. Despite the film-makers’ denials, it’s a mockumentary, moving between different realities as deftly as Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder. We have talking-heads interviews with (supposedly) the “real” people, remembering their ordeal on the island. They’re intercut with similar-looking actors in “reconstructions” of the events (excellently filmed); and also with grainy “excerpts” from footage shot by the Real Animal League. The touchstone is the mountaineering docudrama Touching the Void (another is Man on Wire, about the man who rope-walked between the towers of the World Trade Centre).

The main way in which Blooded breaks horror rules (and arguably disqualifies itself from being a true horror film) is that we see most of its characters “recalling” the events in interviews, so you know they get out alive. But Lucas isn’t among the interviewees, allowing for a core of suspense; also, as Blooded’s makers point out, Touching the Void was gripping though we knew the hero lives. Like Void, the characters go through shock surprises and vividly torturous events, involving the simplest deprivations; being alone, lost and freezing. Forget the cartoon contraptions in Saw. If you want people to suffer, just abduct them from a warm bed to a chilly hillside, drop them off in their underpants, and start taking potshots at them.

(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.

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