By: John M Jerva

REVIEW: BLOOD HUNTERS: RISE OF THE HYBRIDS

STARRING: Sarah Chang, Ian Ignacio, Monour Del Rosario, Roxanne Barcelo, Mayling Ng, Mekael Turner, Temujin Shirzada and Vincent Soberano

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Vincent Soberano

Official Synopsis:  In an alternate world much like our own, fearsome vampiric creatures terrorize the lands and people live in fear. Mercenaries called Blood Hunters are employed by a dubious scientific firm to hunt down these creatures and extract their vampire blood for the purposes of weaponizing them. Gabriela Chen is a former cop-turned-rogue hunter in search of the Aswang beast that killed her family, Naga. After an unsuccessful fight with Naga and the Kapre (Tree Giant) warlord, Gundra, she is rescued and brought back to a remote jungle training facility of a group of Blood Hunters called the Slayers. They are soon joined by a hybrid (half-human, half-Aswang) now on a vengeance trail, using syringes of Aswang blood to enhance his strength and survive. After the death of an Aswang queen, former Blood Hunter leader injected her blood into his own veins, transforming into a monstrous hybrid, eventually propagating a new breed of Aswang as his own army. Vanguarded by his lieutenants and a distant dark horse in the midst, their plan is to do destroy the Slayers including the avenging hunters, to curb and undermine mankind’s chances against their elusive and growing threat.

THE REVIEW: Filipino action cinema has certainly been putting itself on the map as of late with great entries like Maria and The Trigonal and now we have another one to add to the list as filmmaker Vincent Soberano, who also helmed The Trigonal, delivers his latest creation in the form of Blood Hunters: Rise Of the Hybrids. Where The Trigonal was grounded in reality in the world of an underground fighting tournamnet, Blood Hunters is Soberano’s sci-fi, horror, ass kicking martial arts hybrid (pardon the pun) which will certainly fulfill its purpose and serve up a great diversion for any genre fan’s Saturday night viewing and with going out in public not really an option right now, you could definitely do worse.

The film centers on the character of Gabriella, played by Sarah Chang, who also starred in Soberano’s The Trigonal, as an ex-cop turned demon slayer who is after those responsible for the death of her husband and son. Along the way she hooks up with a group known as Slayers who are looking for the same thing and they are led by Bolo (Soberano) who is a hybrid looking to redeem himself. Chang is really the heart and soul of the movie and the lady simply kicks butt and kicks it plenty. Her moves and combinations are smooth and precise and it’s exciting if anything to see her work on camera. It’s also important to note that Chang served as the fight coordinator on The Trigonal as well. Check out Action-Flix contributor Danny Templegod’s exclusive interview with Chang here where she chats about the film and more!

Here it’s Jeff Centauri, who has also cut his teeth in the brutal world of stunt work as well as crafted many action related projects, that serves as the film’s action master and Centauri uses the strengths of all the talent that he has and even though some of the sequences are too short, he still knows how to make it look for the audience.

The baddies they are facing are the Aswang, a group of demonic monsters who prey on the innocent and leave death and destruction in their wake. They are like Vampires and demons combined and are just stone cold evil. In the realm of horror, you’ve seen this type of stuff before so while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it entertains. The main culprits are Gundra (Mekael Turner) and Naga (Temujin Shirzada) who lead this pact of blood eating creatures that embody pure evil. You don’t know much about them but you know you don’t want to run into them in a dark alley with no backup.

Gabriella also meets fellow Slayer Max played by The Trigonal’s Ian Ignacio and others and they set off to rid the world of this unruly plague on the world. There really isn’t any character development besides Gabriella which would have made things more emotional when certain characters met their fates but that is par for the course with films that just don’t have the massive budget. Some things have to be sacrifised for the sake of the action and I’m one that will take adrenaline over drama any day.

Blood Hunters makes no excuse for what it is and here it is all about the action. With a running time less than 90 minutes, it is never boring and the fisticuffs are plentiful with some truly bone crunching scenes added in. Some of the sequences do get repetitive and while it never reaches the level of The Raid films, the top tier Filipino talent here serve it up relentlessly. There are editing issues now and again and some of the action is sped up but all in all Soberano and crew deliver the bloody soaked goods that should satisfy a Saturday night viewing.

In terms of plot and actiong, you get whjat you expect and the cast makes a valiant attempt to draw one in and even though it doesn’t quite get you there, audiences should become vested in them especially Chang’s Gabriella. After all, Soberano is more of a craftsman at honing the fight game rather that the drama but that’s Ok in a film like this.

There are pacing issues throughout and some of the scenes feel like they were cut short as we go into something else at the drop of a hat but it’s the action that will keep you invested with until the final credits role. It’s not a perfect movie by any means but for a lower budget Indie flick, it does what it wants to do and that’s kick a little ass.

With this film and The Trigonal, you can see the progression that Soberano is taking in regards to helming action cinema and he really is going in the right direction. He has a tendency to star in the films that he makes and I feel that if he sticks completely behind the camera for a project he can focus all of his energy on it and bring us something truly special that will rank among the finest the genre has to offer.

To sum it up, Blood Hunters is another solid notch in the wold of Filipino action cinema and Soberano takes another step on his way to becomong known in this world that features many talented people. The cast and stunt professionals really give it their all and what we have is a guilty pleasure of bone crunching, bone jarring fighting frenzy that will please people and leave them wanting more.

When the film hits on Digital next Friday, check it out and support independent action cinema because it’s a crazy world we live in and now more than ever, we need to be entertained and escapist films like this definitely serve a purpose now more than ever.

VERDICT: 3.5 Out Of 5 Stars

ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!

Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids Hits Digital and VOD on

Friday, March 17th!

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