How to make a film that straddles both sides of an argument whilst managing to upset all factions… step forward Ed Boase, director of Blooded, easily one of the most contentious – and courageously inventive – British indies in years.
Blooded takes as its backdrop the on-going conflict between members of the traditional fox hunting fraternity and their avowed opponents, the anti-hunt community. Into this melee Boase and writer James Walker bowl a deliberate curveball: they present hunters and animal rights extremists as indistinct from each other, and equally radical.
Pitching two extreme views against one another, they present the mockumentary as agitprop and ensure that neither element emerges with anything close to legitimacy.
Blooded is a film about communication. Or rather the lack of it. Unapologetic hunting advocate Lucas Bell is driven to hide out in the Scottish wilds when his dogma leads to death threats. What he cannot expect is that he and his friends will be tracked to their remote homestead, drugged and abandoned on the misty glens clad only in their underwear.
Thus begins a deadly game of cat-and-mouse during which anonymous hunt saboteurs pursue their quarry through the wilderness, taking leisurely aim with high-power rifles fitted with telescopic sights.
The story of what occurred is re-enacted after the fact by actors, with the ‘real’ individuals relating their experiences as talking head interviews. Thus a fiction is depicted as quasi-fact in the mode of The Blair Witch Project.
Boase weaves together a compelling and plausible tapestry. Blooded makes for great drama. It also throws up an array of questions about modern Britain and its attitude to the sport of the past, to the rule of law, and to what is acceptable (or not) in our modern society.
But, more than that, it shows what occurs when two immovable forces crash together. This is a dread, dark fantasy – the product of a band of adventurous, inventive and mischievous filmmakers who have hitched a ride to what is happening – or could – in our fractured society.
This is not a story of haves and have-nots. Instead it displays a worrying sense of the prescient as two factions at distant ends of a deep divide engage in almost Stone Age combat. Causes and ideologies are forgotten as the survival instinct takes over.
The film’s tipping point comes via a horrifying moment in which a freezing, wet and bedraggled man is dragged before his pursuers. As the scene is captured via camcorder and his friends watch, powerless, from afar, a pistol is put to his head…
Hunters have complained that such a sequence can only escalate what is an already sensitive situation – that fiction may become fact via such dangerously subversive material. Yet anti-hunt campaigners similarly claim that such OTT dramatisations can only harm their cause.
Clearly no-one emerges from Blooded with much dignity. And I venture that’s precisely what Boase, Walker and producer Nick Ashdon intended.