One from TriCoast: Blood Hunters: The Rise of the Hybrids – Filipino action-thriller drags despite its rapid runtime

Film review

A team of highly trained hunters and assassins, the Slayers, face down superhuman, beast-like cannibals known as Aswang terrorising local communities. It’s a matter of life or death as the groups collide with the fate of many lives at stake.

Asian martial arts films have a peculiar appeal for fans of the action genre. As Western viewers we often can’t fully immerse ourselves in the cultural nuances of what we see, but the brutal action sequences and familiar, sometimes campy, plot lines make for fun viewing. Classics of Asian martial arts films include Indonesia’s The Raid and the Hong Kong period flick Fearless. However, while these films aren’t built on the most intricate of narratives, they do give viewers enough to thread the amazing fight sequences together. Blood Hunters… unfortunately doesn’t manage this, with its thin plot not enough to engage for even the short 75-minute runtime.

Film review of Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids. The Slayers assemble!

The film’s narrative is at its most basic a revenge story. Both the film’s main characters, protagonist Gabriela (Sarah Chang) and renegade hunter (Vincent Soberano), are out for the blood of the Aswang leaders after they murder the pair’s families. It’s a predictable plotline but could have worked had the characters been well developed. They aren’t. The story could also have been exciting if the narrative world was fleshed out, to give us an idea of what’s at stake. It isn’t. The plot is so rushed to get to the ‘big bad’ fights that we are still in the dark about the whole film by the end credits. Dialogue is stilted and unbelievable, solely used to advance the story to its end point. All in all, the Blood Hunters… script could use a total overhaul to get it up to scratch.

As a result of this shocking script the acting is poor across the board. Chang and Soberano are forgettable, while Temujin Shirzada plays baddie Naga near-pantomime, jarring with the other characters’ sombre takes. Mekael Turner is the exception as the genuinely intimidating other baddie Gundra, but otherwise the acting is nothing to write home about.

Film review of Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids. One of the fight scenes!

Soberano completes his Blood Hunters… hattrick (writing, acting, directing) behind the camera, and that’s where he is most successful. He ties the film’s sequences together with comic book panel transitions, adding stylistic, campy fun that is unfortunately not replicated in other areas of the film. The fight scenes are also well choreographed for the most part, especially between the main baddies and the Slayers. The visual effects show its budget constraints – the CGI blood sprays look more like ink than blood, but you can look past the silliness and embrace some of choreographing.

Hardcore fans of martial arts films will accept Blood Hunters… for what it is – a thin plot built around cool fights at the film’s climax. For everyone else, give this one a miss.

Unfortunately Blood Hunters… isn’t currently available on streaming platforms in Europe, but keep your eyes peeled on Prime Video in the future!

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