By Carolyn Mauricette (@vfdpixie)
Canadian horror director Tricia Lee is behind clever indie genre films Silent Retreat and Clean Break, both bringing us strong female leads and interesting stories. As one of the leading female horror directors in Canada, she’s back with her award-winning feature, Blood Hunters. Lee, along with her long-time writer and collaborator Corey Brown, creates a story based on addiction, life after death, faith and regret.
Ellie (Lara Gilchrist) is a single mother who is an addict. The pressures of raising her son gets the best of her and after an overdose, she wakes up in a hospital facility strewn with dead bodies, and to her surprise, she is now nine months pregnant. As she searches for help, she meets fellow survivors and they realize they are all being stalked by creatures. They must set aside their differences to figure out how they got there and how to get out before the blood-thirsty creatures get to them.
Blood Hunters (once called One Drop in the earlier stages of production to signify how one small moment can change the rest of your life) is a creature feature that attempts to be more by covering what would happen if someone who has lost themselves has to fight for their life. With Canadian indie film and TV veterans such as Gilchrist (Battlestar Galatica); Torri Higginson (Stargate: Atlantis) as Marion the computer tech; and Orphan Black’s Julian Richings as the overzealous Father Stewart, I expected a meatier story, but strong performances couldn’t infuse this slow burn story with the usual energy and chemistry found in a Lee film, although there’s plenty of gore to be had.
Benjamin Arthur was good as Ellie’s foil Henry, but the comedic moments between them were flat at times. The theme of a secular versus religious approach to death fell short as facility intern George (Mark Taylor) and Father Stewart provided explanations for the creatures and their origin, although the general sense of moral ambiguity with each character was well done, especially with Ellie as she struggled with her shortcomings as a mother and addict.
What works is seeing the consequences of each character’s decisions come back to haunt them in the way of an actual creature. With a great monster design by Shaun Hunter, the blood hunters are both judge and jury in this film, forcing everyone involved to realize their weaknesses and struggles with their past; as well as trusting strangers in order to escape the encroaching terror in the hospital hallways. Their stories and possible redemption fit together like puzzle pieces as the plot is slowly revealed, keeping characters and the audience in a suspended state of tension.
With a over two year wait for the next Tricia Lee film, her fans will get a different approach to a strong female character and a different type of demon. Head out to see Blood Hunters in select Canadian theaters on July 7th, or catch it VOD July 4th in Canada and the U.S.
Carolyn is a film programmer for the Blood in the Snow Film Festival and a contributing author to the first edition of the Women in Horror Annual, The Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror Films (Rowman & Littlefield), and The Encyclopedia of Racism in American Films (Rowman & Littlefield). She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and has also written pieces on diversity and women in sci-fi for Graveyard Shift Sisters, film reviews for Cinema Axis, and Rue Morgue Magazine, online and in print, and articles in Grim Magazine. Her focus is on independent and Canadian horror, women in horror, and the representation of people of color within the genre. She has a new site, View From The Dark, where she deep dives into race and representation of people of color in genre film. You can follow her on Twitter (@vfdpixie)