Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blood Punch

This movie is another thing I stumbled across by complete accident. I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw that one of the Power Rangers related Twitter accounts I follow shared a video from Bluff Road Productions, with a few images from Power Rangers RPM alongside it. So I looked into it, and found out that the movie starred three members of the cast of RPM.
The video in question was this one, and I decided to watch the whole thing. And it pretty much sold me on the movie, so I spent the entire intervening time between the release of that video and the release of the movie attempting to do like they suggested in the video, and pre-order the movie on iTunes.
But for some reason, iTunes just outright refused to connect to the iTunes store. I updated it, uninstalled it, and then reinstalled it, and it still didn't want to connect to the store.
So what did I do? I contacted Ari Boyland, who was running their pre-order rewards program and asked if I could talk to their PR guy, and they hooked me up with a review screener of the movie.
And bloody hell, oh bloody hell. I didn't know what I was expecting when I went into the film, but whatever it was, this movie just demolished all of them.
So, what kind of movie do you expect when you see the title, Blood Punch? It seems like the kind of title you give to a low-budget, direct to DVD action-schlock movie that winds up becoming popular in the kind of circles that like Asylum movies, populated exclusively by bad actors.
But that's not what we got. Not anywhere near that. At all.
One of the things I like about Blood Punch is that it feels very self-contained, and natural. It's a rarity to see a movie that doesn't have some sort of massive issue that sticks with me throughout the entire movie, annoying me. Either with pacing, character development, terrible special-effects, or just by leaving some massive bit of plot unaddressed.
I'm glad to see someone getting the art of film-making executed extremely well, and from an indie studio, and a first-time director no less! And I'm glad to see that it's making some headway, even if it's just in the Power Rangers community at the moment. And hopefully it'll go far beyond that, because it is a really good film!
IMDB and Wikipedia conflict a bit on this, but Blood Punch appears to have won about ten awards since its release. It's a shame that it's probably not gonna be in the running for an Academy Award, because I feel like this is best-picture material.
And no, I'm not just saying that because the cast is made up of my childhood heroes.
I've always thought that Power Rangers RPM was the all-time best series of the franchise, and that was due in part to the chemistry and strength of the cast. That chemistry carries over into this movie with the main trio of Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland.
They play Ziggy, Dr. K, and Flynn in Power Rangers RPM, and Milton, Skyler and Russel in Blood Punch respectively. And they work oh-so-well together in this film.
The funny thing is they're all from New Zealand, but have got perfect Midwestern American accents in this movie. That's especially jarring coming from Ari Boyland, since I've only heard him speak in a Scottish accent previously. I always find it somewhat astonishing when I hear a person speak in one accent in one production, and then a different one in another. But it shows off a range of abilities.
So, since this is a horror film, I suppose I should talk about the atmosphere. And let me just say this.
Brilliant. It's amazing how this film manages to keeps its tense and slowly creeping, unsettling atmosphere alongside the funny bits they have. I suppose I'd liken the atmosphere to that of Alien Isolation, or the original Alien, but with a bit more levity. The fact that it manages to keep up its tense tone, and still have a few good black comedy moments without destroying the unsettling nature of the horror is pretty artful.
The placement of the comedic peaks helps contribute to the sheer impact of the sickening moment, and that's part of what makes for good horror. Like how the moments where you felt safe in Alien Isolation helped contribute to how scary the dangerous moments were.
Now, I won't give away specifics in this review, but I will say this: The way the movie starts, and is presented is in a way that I normally don't care for, but the way they use it is just perfect.
And the best thing about the whole film is that it feels like a complete story. There's no clunky exposition that makes you feel like there should be a few more scenes where they show, don't tell. There's no massive plot-holes left untouched that could have easily been fixed with a single line of dialogue. And there's nothing that I feel should have been expanded upon during the course of the film. The entire thing feels pretty much perfect.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about sound design.
For the most part, the sound of the film is brilliant. The music is almost entirely comprised of string instruments, with a woodwind thrown in for good measure, and they contribute to the atmosphere amazingly.
Then we come to the pair of Kevin MacLeod tracks they used in the background. I wouldn't exactly say they're out of place, just that it's somewhat strange to hear them show up in a movie like this, with vocals added in that just sound creepy.
The only songs that are actually name-checked in the credits are the two Kevin MacLeod tracks and a pair of public-domain traditional songs. I'm not entirely sure based on the very limited sample I've had from this movie, but Olivia Tennet seems to have a decent singing voice. Or, at the very least, a singing voice that contributes to the atmosphere of the movie.
But now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about the sound-effects. In the beginning of the film, the sound-effects are a little bit weird.
Sometimes when a gun fires it sounds like the effect they used came from The General Series 6000 Sound Effects Library. The reason I know this is because I know that Doom used that sound-effects collection, and some of the gunshot effects in Blood Punch have the same kind of muted tone that the ones in Doom had.
Another small issue is that there are times where they put in sound-effects that don't seem to fit the action or situation attached to them. Sort of like the effects either weren't mixed into the rest of the audio properly, or like they just couldn't find the right kind of effect, so they just used whatever.
In a lot of cases, they would have been better off just not dubbing a sound-effect in, or just by recording the effect on-set, when the actors actually performed the real action.
But I will say this: The weird, out-of-place nature of certain sound-effects helps contribute to a somewhat uneasy feeling in the background that I actually think enhances the atmosphere.
There's also a point in time where the sound editors placed full-auto machine-gun sound-effects alongside the firing of a pair of semi-automatic pistols, and the visual-effects guy also put rapidly pulsing muzzle-flashes over them, when I'm pretty sure that the prop-gun they were using was modeled after a police-issue Beretta handgun, which isn't capable of firing that many shots at that high a rate. That's not too big an issue, since it flashes by fairly quickly.
But there's a much bigger problem with a scene towards the end of the movie, with a firefight that seems extremely poorly directed and edited. It seems a bit odd, considering how well-directed the rest of the film is.
There are sound-effects that are out of place, there are visual-effects out of place, and nobody seems to be aiming at anyone else. There are hundreds, if not thousands of bullets being fired off in that scene, and nobody seems to be aiming at a target. The entire scene just seems out-of-place, and bizarre.
Plus, the camera just stays still in one place for that little bit. Fortunately the shot is short, so it goes away fast. But I can't imagine a reason it would need to be there at all, considering that it seems to be rendered completely moot by all of the scenes that immediately precede and follow it.
So, without spoiling I'm just going to mention that I liked how the ending seemed like a pretty natural conclusion to the film. Like I've said before, it's a very self-contained narrative with a fairly logical conclusion. I didn't like how it ended, but I don't think I was supposed to like how it ended. The ending made me really uncomfortable, but I sort of liked the irony of the ending.
So, all in all, I liked Blood Punch. I think it's a great horror film, and I think it's a very good movie with a lot of very good moments. In the end, I'll give it a 10.0* rating. I'm knocking a point off for the sound-effects failures and rather bizarre gunfight near the end.
If you want to purchase Blood Punch on DVD, click on this link. If you want to purchase it on iTunes, click here.

Blood Punch provided for review by Bluff Road Productions. No employee of BDVR was paid to provide coverage of this movie by anyone. At all. No, not even you Jonah.
Image from