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Film review: Blooded. Is hunting 'doco' a hoax?

 

When Blooded premiered at the Bradford International Film Festival last week, organisers feared it would be sabotaged after receiving anonymous threats. This from the festival that last year screened Four Lions (Chris Morris's film about bungling suicide bombers in Sheffield) without a hitch.

But then perhaps it's not surprising considering Blooded's controversial content. The film, directed by Ed Boase and produced by Nick Ashdon, paints itself as a documentary about five young hunting enthusiasts who in October 2005 were kidnapped and tortured by militant animal rights activists.

It claims to combine “dramatic reconstruction and real-life footage” of their harrowing encounter with balaclava-clad activists who shoot at them as they scramble around the Scottish Highlands in nothing but their underwear.

It's a pretty unbelievable scenario. With good reason – it's completely fictional.

Much like Joaquin Phoenix's recent film I'm Still Here which portrayed itself as a real-life documentary about the actor's failed hip hop aspirations and was later revealed to be a hoax, there's a definite hype advantage to keeping people guessing.

But it means there's also the danger of falling flat when the truth is revealed.

The Blooded viral trailer certainly did its job creating a buzz, featuring the grainy 'real-life' footage supposedly taken by the Real Animal League terrorising their young victims and candid interviews with the survivors.

As the description reads: “Blooded finally tells the true story behind one of the most extreme internet virals of modern times.”

The filmmakers say they chose a documentary-style as it was the most compelling way to tell their story. In a statement they added: “We could have made Blooded as a straight fiction film and indeed some people have told us we should have. But we challenged ourselves to do something we thought, and still think, is more interesting; to make a documentary about an event that did not happen but that can still engage and affect audiences as if it did.”

The film sets the scene with news footage of the hunting debate in the UK and accompanying facts such as its outlaw in 2004.

We're then transported to the breathtaking and deserted Isle of Mull where outspoken hunting enthusiast Lucas Bell is spending a weekend getaway with his best friend, ex-girlfriend, brother and brother's girlfriend.

But the holiday takes a harrowing turn when activists break into the house and drug the young friends in their sleep, stripping them to their underwear and dumping them in the wilderness.

When they awake the next morning the hunt is on with the activists taking pot-shots at them until, with a gun pointed at their heads, they finally read a statement to camera condemning hunting.

Blooded features the 'real' victims in one-on-one interviews with 'actors' recreating the event. But as someone who has always found recreations a bit naff, I struggled to engage in the wooden dramatisation of a fictional event.

However the film does have thrilling moments with a strong music score by Ilan Ishkeri, stunning cinematography by Kate Reid and an interesting idea of the hunter being hunted.

The actors playing the 'real' victims are also convincing, with Lucas's Irish best friend Irish a standout.

The filmmakers say Blooded is neither pro or anti hunting, adding it instead “seeks to explore how retaliatory any form of extremism can become, at the expense of the originating issue.

“We have worked hard to create characters and scenarios which express, explicitly and implicitly, viewpoints from across a wide spectrum of the hunting debate.”

That said, it's difficult to see how a film which portrays animal rights activists as gun-toting terrorists is completely unbiased.

As one viewer – naming themselves Snailhouse01 - commented on the viral trailer: “The movie itself does not clearly promote either pro or anti hunt positions. But their choice of promotion (creating a false animal liberationist website and forum posts suggesting such a kidnapping actually happened) depicts a naive picture of the animal rights movement at a time when those involved are falsely deemed terrorists. I'd probably enjoy the movie if not for the promotion stunt.”

Blooded is released by Revolver Entertainment at selected cinemas on Friday April 1 and DVD on Monday April 4.