The action Goes Boom!

Slick Dungeon here, coming at you hard and fast with a martial arts action film review. DarkCoast pictures reached out to me with a screener copy of Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids in exchange for an honest opinion about the film. I’ll give you a bit of the plot summary and then tell you about the good, the bad and the kicks in the face.

Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids is a low budget, independent martial arts film by Vincent Soberano who also stars in the movie as the character Bolo. The movie also stars Sarah Chang as Gabriela and Mayling Ng as Maya.

I think at this point in the world, a lot of us are trying to make the most out of video streaming because no one wants to go out into a crowd anymore and some people are not allowed to. So what do you do to keep busy? Watch movies. Lots of movies and shows. You’ve watched The Witcher, you caught up on The Boys, and you have watched The Baby Yoda show on loop for the last ten days and it’s time to look for something else. Maybe something you haven’t seen before.

Well, like it or hate it, I can tell you, you haven’t seen Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids before. Personally, I am in favor of any film these days that can claim to be independent. If there’s a good story and plenty of entertainment to be had, so much the better. This movie gets some of that right but not all of it.

The story goes like this. There’s a race of alien creatures called the Aswang. They are sort of a cross between vampires and werewolves but they pretty much look human. They are extremely fast and very strong. The really cool thing about them is that they are based on Filipino folklore that Soberano grew up with. I love the idea of monsters that don’t get enough exposure getting some air time.

Anyway, these Aswang are trying to dominate the human race. There was a human trying to stop them named Naga. When he gets the chance to stop the queen of the Aswang, Maya, he instead injects himself with her blood and becomes one of these creatures. Meanwhile there is a group of humans who are basically mercenaries trying to stop Naga and Maya. These people also inject themselves with the Aswang blood to give themselves strength and power but they are on the side of humanity. Confused yet? I was a bit too. I think one thing the movie suffers from is not giving enough time for the origins of the Aswang to play out, instead opting for exposition on their background.

The film also cuts back and forth between what seems to have happened before and the action going on now. It’s not always clear who is doing what or why.

There’s really cool artwork that the film uses to transition scenes with. Sort of like Sin City did. While I love the artwork, which if I understand correctly, Soberano also made, the transitions can get a bit distracting here. It wasn’t completely off putting and it certainly doesn’t ruin the film but it does seem like it happens just a little too often.

The story centers on Gabriela who has a husband and child that were seemingly murdered by Naga. She’s out on a quest for vengeance and she kicks serious butt.

She goes after the creatures as hard as she can. We even learn that her family was basically the first victims of these attacks. Other than that, her motivations are not always real clear.

The film does the wise thing by not overdoing the blood and gore factor. We mostly see dead bodies covered in blood after the fact, but there’s no silly decapitations or anything like that. I feel like that makes the violence the creatures do more impactful.

I would go on with summarizing the story but it’s a little disjointed. The main thing to know is that there are bad, strong monsters that want to kill humans. And there is a group of humans that want to kill the monsters. That’s enough for me though. You know why?

The freaking action scenes are phenomenal.

This movie reminded me of some of the Kung Fu movies I grew up watching on late night television or early morning Sundays. The point is the fighting above all else. That being said, there are still some things I found a little silly.

  • At one point Gabriela fires a slingshot into a stack of boxes near a car. The whole thing blows up. I’m all for unnecessary explosions but, uh one sling shot? Really? And later she uses the same thing to sling shot a dart at someone so, uh did the whole thing actually blow up with one single dart? I mean cool explosion though…
  • There’s one character who basically has fake fangs in his mouth. It made it pretty hard to understand his dialogue and even after watching more than once, I am still not sure what that guy was saying. Still, his martial arts game is strong so all good.
  • These creatures can’t be killed by anything other than a special type of blade. The “Slayers” as they are called, the mercenary group that want to stop the Aswang, sneak up on the enemy base and eliminate a bunch of the guards around them, using guns. Why wouldn’t these creatures post guards that were Aswang instead?! Also, after they are in the building, and about to go after Maya and Naga and the big bads, one of the Slayers says, “blades out, this is the Aswang lair.” Maybe you should have mentioned that outside bro? I mean cause, you are already inside so, good thing there was no one in that hallway I guess?

All that aside, the best part of this movie happens from when the dude says to get the blades out.

The sword battles and one on one match ups are phenomenal. Personally, I am kind of sick of martial arts action that relies on wires and shaky camera editing to make things look cool, rather than just letting the camera stay back and allowing us to see human skill. This movie absolutely does not make that mistake. The fighting is great, the action is framed well for the most part and there are cool moves from both good and bad guys. There’s a little touch of special effects given to the Aswang to make them seem other than human but it in no way takes away from the fight scenes. And from my point of view, since most of the movie is an extended fight scene, that makes this movie worth a watch.

The match up between Gabriela and Maya was particularly enjoyable to me. You can tell how carefully these fight scenes were choreographed and that the actors are skilled martial artists in their own right.

The end gets a little messy again with a surprise betrayal and some characters that we weren’t all that attached to losing fights and it becomes a bit confusing. The very end leaves us on a cliff hanger setting up for a sequel. For my part I hope that Soberano and crew do more films together. I just hope that next time he keeps the action fast but slows down on the set up. I would like to see less exposition and more character growth. But the same amount of kicks in the face. Actually, more kicks in the face. I can always use more kicks in the face. Wait, that sounded wrong. Anyway, yeah Soberano is talented and should make more independent films and I hope he will. I’ll be there for the action, just maybe not entirely for the story.

Blood Hunters Rise of the Hybrids will be streaming on March 17th (Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, FlixFling, Vudu, FANDANGO)

Face Kickingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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