Blood Punch
R1 - America - Midnight Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (10th October 2015).
The Film

Sentenced to a rehab facility after his college meth lab was raided, chemistry wiz Milton (Milo Cawthorne) is waiting out his sentence when he gets an offer he should refuse. Unrepentant new inmate Skyler (Olivia Tennet) seduces him and proposes that he "cook" eighty-five pounds of meth for her in a lucrative one day drug score. He has no time to object when Skyler's trigger-happy boyfriend Russell (Ari Boyland) – an ex-cop as of that very night – blasts them to freedom. Setting up in a hunting lodge with a history of bootlegger massacres, cannibalism, and cult mass murders and many accessible weapons on the wall from axes, sickles, bear traps, laser sight crossbows, and various firearms, abrasive Russell sets about testing Milton's trustworthiness with a game combining William Tell and Russian Roulette. Russell has more surprises in store for them when he spikes their cocaine (and his own) with peyote and creeps them out with the story of a Chacatoy Indian massacre on the land. The next day, Skyler gives Milton the opportunity to escape using Russell's squad car but he has realized that he is not in it for the money but for the girl. When Russell prepares to kill him after he has finished cooking, he believes he can use his formula as leverage only to discover that Russell inexplicably has it memorized. When Skyler reveals that she has emptied Russell's gun, a struggle over the Milton's gun results in him getting his ear shot off before Skyler takes Russell down with the crossbow. Milton buries Russell and passes out only to wake up the next morning to discover himself uninjured and Russell alive with no memory of what happened the day before. Milton is ready to believe everything that happened was a peyote-induced hallucination until he discovers that Russell's corpse is also in the ground where he buried him. Skyler also remembers what happened the day before and tries to discourage Milton from trying to change things as the events lead up to them having to murder a homicidal Russell again… and again when he is up and about the next day. As Russell's bodies start to pile up in a mass grave over the next several days or day (since the same full moon rises every night), Milton realizes that the three of them are trapped in some kind of supernatural cycle that has certainly happened to them before but may have also befallen other unfortunates on the land going back to the Chacatoy massacre. No matter how many times they kill Russell (and in how many different ways, including "death by cougar"), and how far they try to drive away, they always wind up back at the cabin. While Milton looks for a way to free them from the cycle, Skyler is more interested in completing the drug deal with duplicitous mentor Archer (Cohen Holloway) and his gun-toting partner Nabiki (Adelaide Kane presumably just before landing the lead on the CW's Reign).

Combining a fatalistic film noir-ish love triangle with a Groundhog Day scenario, Blood Punch is a consistently funny, unpredictable, and stimulating horror comedy. The New Zealand-born principals – all three alumni of Power Rangers R.P.M. – are so convincingly American and fully engaging, giving some nice depth to the usual characters of the dupe, the femme fatale, and the heavy. While the explanation of the cycle is ultimately uninteresting, the film gets its mileage out of the routine of killing Russell and the lovers' increasingly jaded reactions to torture and murder, the question of whether the cycle is really as hellish a punishment as it first seems (and if they really have anything else better on the outside), and has a few more hands to play with revelations that leave Milton wondering whether Skyler is sincere or still manipulating him. The film plays as a flashback framed by a video Milton has made for himself (another nod to the noir genre in a way), which at first confuses the audience since it appears that Milton and Skyler are able to remember everything that has happened each time they wake up while Russell's memory is wiped each time he is murdered; but his need to clarify things to himself makes more sense as the film moves towards its third act climax. The final scene's sting in the tale is simultaneously wicked and optimistic for those viewers who like the three main characters.
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Video

The film is letterboxed at the peculiar 1.96:1 aspect ratio but it is well-framed and the mid-range bitrate encode satisfactory.
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Audio

Although the menu specifies Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks, both tracks are 2.0 stereo (presumably an encoding error) but more than effective for this engrossing film. The optional English subtitles are at least a second behind the dialogue and sound effects (although the HoH notations mainly consist of "ironic music" or (sic) "Eery music").
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Extras

Instead of a behind the scenes featurette or audio commentary, extras on Blood Punch consist of a number of deleted scenes, unused scenes filed under "test footage", and outtakes that provide less of an overview of the film's concept as a look into the working methods of the actors and the filmmakers and how the final form of the film was shaped from elements either elided or altered before the final cut. The deleted scenes include some nice but superfluous character bits that take longer to say things more concisely conveyed in the finished film and providing additional character background of little value. One of the scenes titled "Chainsaw to the Head" does reveal that the list ostensibly of ways Skyler and Milton have used to kill Russell originally served a different purpose. The test footage includes an alternate full title sequence that looks cheaper (presumably it would have been redone with better graphics and titles had they decided to use it) that is too suggestive of the film's backstory too early on. This section also includes some bits that could also be defined as deleted scenes but also features a selection of outtakes (7:15) - with dialogue gaffes, blown takes with the William Tell apple, one or two other ways they killed Russell not excerpted in the film's death montage, and an amusing bit involving a lit fuse - as well as a "teaser" (1:58). The separate production outtakes (9:02) section includes some accent gaffes, more flubs, some unintentional pratfalls, and tension-breaking laughter.
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Overall

Although it perhaps went under the radar for genre viewers, Blood Punch may indeed live up to the Bloody Disgusting back cover blurb "Fun as hell and smart enough to pull all the right moves!"
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