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Hunter's Blood
(1986)

Director: Robert C. Hughes  
Cast:
Sam Bottoms, Kim Delaney, Clu Gulager


As human beings, we like to think that we are pretty smart. This may be because unlike animals, we have a driving urge in the back of our heads to be 100% in control of our situation all of the time. During situations when we don't feel totally in control, we human beings can do some things that seem pretty foolish to those humans who feel they are in total control. One of these obvious things is to inflict pain or even death on people, animals, or other things we either don't understand or feel that is holding us back in some ways. Usually, and fortunately, humans usually react in ways that are less violent, but some of these other kind of reactions can also hurt in different ways. One of the biggest non-violent ways that humans view something they know little about - and won't research what the truth is really like for those things for whatever reason - is with the use of stereotypes. These people see movies or read in literature (that is, if they are somehow smart enough to read) assumptions of people in different cultures - and often the same particular assumptions over and over - and come to the conclusion that people of certain cultures often act in some outrageous ways without resorting to true research to see if these assumptions are really true. I'm sure you know what I am talking about. I don't think I have to report to you some of the horrible stereotypes that Caucasian people on this continent have had about people in or out of their country who happen to be of Asian or African origin. And no doubt that many people who happen to live in Asia or Africa have had their own stereotypes of people living in North America for a number of years.

But people, whether they live here or elsewhere in the world, don't just have stereotypes of people who live in different countries. Sometimes, they look much closer to home for stereotypes. I can give you some examples from my own country. For example, many people in my country like to make "Newfie" jokes - jokes about people who live in the province of Newfoundland. I'm not sure why this is so, though it may be because the province is isolated from the rest of Canada in several aspects, so getting factual information about the province and the people who live there may be in short supply. If you're not from Canada, you probably don't know about Newfie jokes. But there is one certain group of people that you have likely encountered outrageous stereotypes about over the years, even if you don't live in the United States as this group does. And that group is people who live in the southern United States. The stereotypes of southerners is an endless list. They are supposedly extremely God-fearing, they are racist towards African-Americans and other minorities, incestual relationships are prevalent, male southerners like to practice sodomy (despite the fact that they are God-fearing people) on people they kidnap, and these same men also like to wear caps. Also, they are supposedly extremely backward in intelligence having never experienced that much schooling, they take the defeat of the south in the American Civil War as something they can't let go of, swearing that one day the south will rise again. Oh, and they like to name their male children "Bubba".

Why do these stereotypes of American southerners not only exist, but exist so strongly to this very day? Well, I think there are several reasons why. Some of these stereotypes do have a little truth to them. For example, as you no doubt know, the south has been a tough place to live for African-Americans for hundreds of years. And when Hunter's Bloodindustry really started in America, most of the factories and other industrial plants were built in the northern part of America. The south didn't get as much new technology, and as a result became backwards and isolated in a number of aspects. Whatever the reasons may be, to this very day many people have a negative view of southerners. And when we get a movie that is set in the south, it is often full of these stereotypes. And Hunter's Blood is one movie stuck in that tradition. See in this plot description if you have seen these elements in a movie before. The movie concerns a group of city folk who decide to vacation into the country. The group consists of Mason Rand (Gulager, The Virginian) and his son David (Bottoms, Apocalypse Now), two brothers friendly with the Rands who are named Al (Ken Swofford, Fame) and Ralph (Mayf Nutter), and there's a fellow named Marty (Joey Travolta, who later directed Earth Minus Zero), an acquaintance of Ralph. The five men cross the state border into Arkansas, and are immediately in redneck country. When they make a pit stop on their way, their superior attitudes almost immediately antagonize the resident rednecks, and when they get back into their vehicle they are chased down the road. The rednecks abandon their pursuit after several minutes, and the five men turn their focus on setting camp and doing some hunting, figuring they will never see those rednecks again.

I am sure that by this point in my telling of the plot, you are finding things extremely familiar. Even if you can't remember the specific titles of the movies or TV shows you have seen these plot elements before, you know you have seen all this before. I'm sure you have also seen what happens next in the movie. The five men set up camp, and as Mason and David scout the area, they come across a couple of game officers, who warn Mason and David that there are wild men living in these woods, wild men who are also poaching the deer in the area and don't take kindly to strangers. However - you guessed it - the five men dismiss the warning, still dead set on doing some hunting. And I'm sure you've also guessed that the five men eventually run into the wild men, and not long afterwards spend the rest of the movie running for their lives from the rednecks. After reading all that, I think you will agree with me that the plot found in Hunter's Blood is painfully predictable. It's not just the plot turns that are one big cliche after another, however. The characters found in the movie are no surprise as well. While the movie does get points for not having a dim-witted drawling southern sheriff anywhere to be found, the characters of the southern locals that are in the movie are not the least bit original. At the local watering hole, the female bartender is a lollipop-sucking tart. All the men are clearly lacking in smarts, new clothes, and razors to shave off their several days growth of beard. All the rednecks, even in their lucrative poaching operation, live and work in downright filth. Oh, and there is one redneck in the movie who is named "Bubba".

But it's not just the redneck characters that are utter cliches. Screenwriter Emmett Alston (who several years later directed the ludicrous Little Ninjas) makes the "city folk" characters not the least bit surprising. Haven't we seen many times before urbanites entering a redneck bar with full confidence before? Or urbanites who immediately start insulting the redneck locals as soon as they enter redneck country? I don't think I have to also point out that these particular urbanites, like urbanites in other redneck movies, are mighty slow in realizing they are in danger, despite plenty of warnings along the way. In fact, the screenplay seems to be doing its best to delay things before the protagonists realize they are in serious peril. Proof of this can be found with the movie's first kill, which doesn't happen until almost an hour of the movie has run by, with the protagonists finding out about this murder a few minutes later and finally realizing they are in deep s**t. Still, while the screenplay makes the rednecks utterly unsurprising (and doesn't flesh out any of them enough to make them real people), and makes the protagonists to be utter idiots, there is some genuine effectiveness to be found with both groups of people, mainly due to the actors who play these roles. The actors playing the protagonists are pretty lively, ranging from Swofford's effective take-charge attitude to Travolta's effective whimpering and blubbering when his character breaks down and loses all hope of getting out of the situation alive. The mostly anonymous actors playing the rednecks are effective as well, coming across as dangerous fellows you wouldn't want to cross paths with. B movie star Billy Drago plays one redneck, and it's a pity that his role is pretty small because he is pretty enthusiastic in the limited time he is featured. (A pre-fame Billy Bob Thornton is also listed in the cast, though I didn't spot him, possibly because of the filthy appearance of all the rednecks.)

So far I have commented about the writing and the acting, so I think that the next logical thing to do would be to comment about the direction. Director Robert C. Hughes didn't have much of a career as a director (the only other movie on his resume you might know is Memorial Valley Massacre), and with this movie he seems to have been saddled with a script full of those cliches and pacing problems I discussed earlier, and had no power to change them. He also seems to have been forced to shoot not in Arkansas but in southern California, which not only looks nothing like Arkansas, its dried-out and stunted wild growth makes parts of the movie cheap-looking. Still, despite hindrances like those, Hughes manages to score a few points with his efforts. While clearly a low budget enterprise, the movie at least looks somewhat better than, say, a Roger Corman-produced movie of the era. (Corman did pick up the finished product for theatrical distribution, however.) Gorehounds will be pleased by the movie showing off some bloody sequences, the most memorable being an unforgettable image of someone with most of his head blown off. And while the first half of the movie did at times start trying my patience by making me wondering when the serious action would start, it never got to the point when I was truly bored. Indeed, there were a number of points in the movie where Hughes seemed to realize how silly the script was, and directed various cliches so broadly that I was greatly amused. If you are in a mood not to think very hard, and you want to feel superior to the characters you watch in a movie, you might want to follow up on my marginal recommendation for this dumb but sometimes fun movie.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check Amazon for availability of source novel by Jere Cunningham

See also: Baker County U.S.A., Raw Courage, Rituals

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