[Review] 'Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids' Doesn't Pull the Punches when It Comes to High-Octane Action
Vincent Soberano has led an exciting life. He started his TV/film career working for Stu Segall Productions in 1991 in San Diego (Silk Stockings, Veronica Mars), later moving to Los Angeles and eventually working in IT. Now, in Asia, he seems to have found his niche both in front of and behind the camera...
Winning Best Feature Film at the NYCA Film Festival in 2019, as well as the Urban Action Showcase Feature Film Award for Best Action, Martial Arts, Visual Effects and Weapons Sequence, BLOOD HUNTERS: RISE OF THE HYBRIDS finds Vincent wearing the hat of writer, director, and actor.
The story follows Gabriela, played by Sarah Chang (The Trigonal: Fight for Justice), three years after the deaths of her husband and son by Naga (Temujin Shirzada, A Cure for Wellness), an aswang/human hybrid (think demon vampires) hellbent on the destruction of humans. After an unsuccessful fight against Naga, Gabriela wakes to find herself in a camp of survivors that are as determined to stop the hybrids as herself, led by a man who has his own (not so secret) agenda. Subtlety be damned. I pegged this guy as untrustworthy right from the start.
These hybrids, once hunted by Section One (an elite group sanctioned with killing the Aswang Queen), are the result of the Section One commander injecting himself with the Aswang Queen's blood after killing her. Believing that nothing remained for him once he’d accomplish his mission, his actions set about an apocalypse worse than that of the Aswang Queen’s. While he’s a central character to the story’s origin, he takes a back seat here, in favor of the conflict between Naga and Sarah.
The survivors camp, co-led by a diverse group of ex-Section One team members, unite Gabriela with their cause once she learns they share the same mission--to stop Naga and his ongoing vengeance against humans. Teaming up with Bolo (Soberano), a kick-ass hybrid that has somewhat reluctantly chosen to side with humans, they set out to end the demon Naga's reign and save the day. It’s worth noting that Vincent Soberano’s Bolo steals the show. Not only is he a bad-ass veteran, but when he becomes aggressive his eyes turn red and his face becomes, well, more aggressive. It’s quite effective and Soberano’s compact, solid build fits the war-torn character almost as if it were custom written for him. Oh, wait…
Vincent's standout backstory of the Aswan Queen and the Section One team is fascinating. There’s so much more to the history of the Blood Hunters and Aswan, and we’re only shown a glimpse. I found myself wishing that was the film I was watching. I would have loved to have seen the birth of the Blood Hunters and the battle that lead to the hybrid creation. I’m not a fan of glossing over the history in favor of the current story (I’m looking at you, A Quiet Place. Show me the invasion!)—especially one as rich as Vincent gives us here.
On another note, Jeff Centauri's (a Steven Seagal stunt double!) action work is as fast and fun as one of Bolo's roundhouse kicks and was a definite highlight of the film—and let’s face it, the action is why we’re here. The stunts are well thought out, choreographed, and carry a sense of weight, like no punches were pulled. If you’ve ever watched Captain Kirk fight Gorn, then you know how important this is.
It's evident that a decent portion of the film's budget went to the opening (and closing) credits. Its opening exposition is told in a superb comic-book style the likes of a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s deep colors and dark tone complimented the story being told. I was impressed, and it set a polished look that got me excited for the rest of the film.
Having said that, Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids, is a decidedly low budget film, despite having $5 million at its disposal. While it’s solid and entertaining, the acting ranges from decent to porn-quality, to the head-scratching Naga as he tries to convince us he’s a real threat by summoning Jarod Leto's Joker from Suicide Squad (I kept waiting for him to raise a smile-tattooed hand to his mouth and mutter unintelligible nonsense).
Regardless, there’s fun to be had here. It's Vincent's writing, though, that keeps the wheels from falling off. There's a real origin story here that I would love to see explored--even if only in a comic-book form.
Jump into the action with Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids now available on digital from DarkCoast.
By Daniel Boucher