Since the late 1990s box office success of films like “Anaconda” and “Lake Placid”, the time-honored ‘creature feature’ genre has been enjoying an extended lease on life. Filmmakers have been pretty undiscriminating in selecting their homicidal animals, and we’ve seen pretty much every animal in the zoo go on the rampage. Of course, the vast majority of these films have been of the low budget, straight to video variety, generally using a mixture of bad CGI and laughable puppetry to bring their monsters to life. Although this definitely hampers any potential fear factor these films might have, a few of them still manage to be entertaining enough in their own way. Thankfully, “Blood Surf” falls into this category, though mainly through the virtue of being amusingly awful, and is definitely one for the most dedicated connoisseurs of trash cinema only.
The film’s plot is suitably ludicrous: a group of extreme sports stereotypes decide to make a video on the subject of ‘blood surfing’, an ingenious practice which involves cutting oneself while surfing through shark infested waters. The group head out to an isolated tropical island, which rather inconveniently happens to be the home of a giant prehistoric crocodile. The croc is a wily beast, and he somehow manages to keep his presence quiet, picking off the gang one by one as they do sensible things like sneak off in couples for soft focus sex scenes. To keep things lively, a group of bloodthirsty pirates turn up to further decrease the surfers’ chances of survival.
“Blood Surf” comes to us courtesy of director James Hickox, son of Douglas Hickox (director of “Theatre of Blood”), brother of Anthony (responsible for some decent genre films like “Waxworks” and “Hellraiser 3′”) and Emma (who recently edited “The Jacket”). Unfortunately, James has inherited none of the family talent, and his direction here can politely be described as ‘indifferent’. All things considered, “Blood Surf” was never likely to be a classic of suspense or terror, but really, Hickox could have at least made some effort. Instead, his leaden work ensures that the film is completely devoid of any surprises or fear, with every death scene being clearly telegraphed. In addition to this, the tropical setting of the island is inexplicably never exploited beyond a poorly shot waterfall sex scene.
The only real atmosphere the film has is one of cheapness, and this is bargain basement stuff in nearly every department. The cast, made up of TV rejects, is uniformly terrible, with thespian skills more at home in pornos. Although to be fair, the script they are working with is quite appalling. Even beyond the risible dialogue, some of the death scene set-ups are simply unforgivably bad, and the characters seem to be going out of the way to offer themselves to a somewhat confused looking killer reptile which boasts an intelligence far greater than theirs.
Fortunately, this does make for a fair bit of unintentional humor, particularly in one scene where the characters pay heartfelt tribute to a recent victim of the beast, only to forget about him a few seconds later while they get back to some lame partying. The laughs are actually pretty widespread, chiefly due to the special effects, which are some of the worst I have seen. The crocodile really is something else, a hilariously unconvincing creation which lurches drunkenly across the screen in search of victims.
To be honest, none of these criticisms are entirely unexpected, and realistically, the only shot at a saving grace for a film like “Blood Surf” is through its action and visceral content, and on this level, the film does manage to scrape a pass. Lacking though his skills may be, director Hickox at least keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, and whenever there is a dull moment, he bows to the classic exploitation tactic of throwing in some blood, nudity or some startlingly gratuitous and inexplicable explosions.
Although there is nothing to excite gore hounds, there is a reasonable amount of carnage, and the croc manages to rack up a fairly respectable body count. This relatively impressive achievement is by no means enough to hide the fact that “Blood Surf” is undeniably a terrible film. But it’s also vaguely entertaining, and does manage to avoid the cardinal sin of being boring. If you’re a fan of this type of film, or of trash cinema in general, then you’ll probably enjoy “Blood Surf”.
James D.R. Hickox (director) / Sam Bernard, Robert L. Levy (screenplay)
CAST: Dax Miller …. Bog Hall
Taryn Reif …. Arti
Kate Fischer …. Cecily
Duncan Regehr …. John Dirks
Joel West …. Jeremy
Matt Borlenghi …. Zack Jardine