Helmer Ed Boase’s promising but flawed debut, “Blooded,” tells of five people who go stag shooting, only to become the prey of saboteurs intent on giving the deerstalkers a taste of their own medicine. This low-budget Brit thriller makes a token effort to explore the ethics of hunting, but it’s much more interested in playing games with suspense and realism via a half-clever, half-pointless pseudo-documentary framing device. Pic, which opened, appropriately, on April Fool’s Day, will chase a short, limited run theatrically in Blighty and then go to ground on ancillary April 4.
Pic nimbly misdirects auds with a mix of fact and fiction from the outset. Real archival footage, accompanied by explanatory subtitles, shows the protests over the introduction of the 2004 Hunting Act, which banned fox hunting with hounds in England and Wales. The action then slips seamlessly into a well-faked TV interview with pro-hunting spokesman Lucas Bell (played first by Neil McDermott).
In a darkened studio, four people are interviewed about an ordeal they endured on the Isle of Mull that involved Bell (conspicuously absent from the interviews), which is then played out in a “reconstruction” using five different thesps. HD lensing by Kate Reid and editing by helmer Boase, Howard Douglas and Dan Susman self-consciously recalls the visuals of other reconstructed docudramas, particularly Kevin Macdonald’s “Touching the Void.”
The interviewees include Luke’s ex-g.f., Liv Scott (Isabella Calthorpe as the “real” character, Cicely Tennant in the reconstruction); Luke’s brother, Charlie (Mark Dexter and Oliver Boot); Charlie’s American squeeze, Eve Jourdan (Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Tracy Ifeachor); and a working-class Irishman and longtime hunting buddy of Luke’s, Ben Fitzpatrick (Adam Best and Joseph Kloska). Lucas, in the reconstruction, is played by the pic’s producer, Nick Ashdon.
As the interviewees recall how they felt at the time, the re-enactment shows them being drugged, stripped to their underwear and dumped in remote locations on the moors by balaclava-clad animal-rights activists with a special grudge against Lucas. When they wake up the next day, the saboteurs start shooting at and chasing them. Eventually, they capture several of the five and force them to read a statement renouncing hunting on camera, although Lucas refuses.
It’s understandable why the filmmakers chose to use the mock-doc framing device, without which “Blooded” might have played out as just another stalk-and-chase genre piece. The interviews do add a level of insight into the characters, making them more sympathetic, a necessity given that two of them are upper-class and therefore ripe for hating according to the conventions of British film.
The problem is, the acting and monologues in the interviews still feel too scripted, insufficiently realistic to create the illusion that these are authentic people, although Best, given the chance to break down on camera, reps the most convincing of the lot.
Apart from this essential flaw, pic is reasonably effective as a suspenser, and features some spectacular aerial photography of the beautiful Scottish landscape that must have taxed the filmmakers’ tight budget. Overall, “Blooded” feels very much like a calling-card project, and augurs well for helmer Boase and screenwriter James Walker’s future efforts.