• Blood Stalkers (Garagehouse Pictures) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Garagehouse Pictures
    Released on: December 23rd, 2019.
    Director: Robert W. Morgan
    Cast: Jerry Albert, Toni Crabtree, Ken Miller, Cisse Cameron, Robert W. Morgan, Herb Goldstein, John H. Meyer, David Faris Legge, Stan Webb
    Year: 1975
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    Blood Stalkers – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Bigfoot authority Robert W. Morgan and originally titled The Night Daniel Died, 1975’s Blood Stalkers follows two couples – ex-Marine Mike (Jerry Ablert) and his blonde bombshell Kim (Toni Crabtree) and their pals, a singer named Daniel (Ken Miller) and his former stripper girlfriend Jeri (Cisse Cameron credited as as Celea Ann Cole) – who have left the comforts of the big city for a trip to the Florida Everglades.

    As they get closer to their destination, an old cabin that Mike has inherited from his parents, they realize this place isn’t going to be as easy to find as they had hoped. Mike stops to ask directions from an old man (Herb Goldstein) at a local store and gets nothing but an attitude and a warning that their kind aren’t welcome around these parts. A few threatening looking hillbillies (John H. Meyer, David Faris Legge and Morgan himself, filling in for an actor who couldn’t make it after getting arrested for drunk driving!) help the old guy make his point and the tourists split. Eventually a helpful mute (Stan Webb) helps them out by pointing them in the right direction, but they have to park their car a ways away from the place once they arrive.

    As night settles in, Kim thinks she say something near the cabin but is reassured by Mike that it’s only her imagination. Later that night when he and she go skinny dipping, however, Mike realizes that maybe there is something out there watching them. Before too long, the four find themselves under attack by the talked about ‘blood stalkers’ that lurk about the area, which leads to a night-long assault on the cabin and a whole lot of carnage.

    Blood Stalkers isn’t much to write home about for the first half of its running time but stick with it because once we hit the half way mark, all bets are off and this one goes from hokey and comedic to dark and twisty. Morgan and company really ramp up the pace as the finale approaches and as Mike realizes he’s the only one who has a shot at getting out of the cabin and getting help, the movie throws some great surprises at the audience, one of which (we’ll just call it the church scene so as not to spoil it) is genuinely harrowing and effecting.

    The cinematography is decent enough and the locations are used very well. The whole thing has an effectively greasy feel to it that works in the movie’s favor. It’s also worth noting that the score, most of which was contributed by an uncredited Earth, Wind And Fire, is really strong. It isn’t always the most orthodox selection of music accompanying the action but it winds up working really well and it makes this one stand out from the other backwoods slashers out there. A couple of the effects set pieces are obviously low budget and not completely convincing, but then the others work nicely.

    Performances are decent enough. Jerry Albert isn’t the most handsome of leading men but he’s quite good in the role, particularly once it all hits the fan in the last half hour or so and his performance becomes increasingly desperate and appropriately intense. Ken Miller is there for comedic relief for the most part, but as his character rises to the occasion Miller takes things in a more serious direction and the movie is better for it. Cameron and Crabtree aren’t given as much to do, their mainly asked to look good and act scared, but they do that well even if they aren’t given anything all that dramatic for their characters to do to latch onto. The cast members that play the hillbillies are all very effective, and Joe Hilton as the preacher is also quite good even if he doesn’t have any dialogue.

    Blood Stalkers – Blu-ray Review:

    Blood Stalkers arrives on Blu-ray from Garagehouse Pictures on a 25GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen, with the feature given 16GBs of real estate. Clearly sourced from elements that were not in the best of shape, the image features noticeably faded colors and mild to moderate print damage throughout. Still, this looks like film and is akin to watching a projected print. Compression could be better in spots but detail is pretty good, all things considered, particularly during close up shots and in scenes with more light. The scenes that take place in the dark can look a bit on the murky side but a lot of this looks like it’s more to do with some tricky day for night photography more than anything else.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD Mono mix. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind provided. Audio quality is on par with the picture quality in that it’s clear Garagehouse were at the mercy of some less than ideal elements. Dialogue can occasionally sound a bit flat and muffled but more often than not it’s pretty clear. The score actually sounds pretty strong here and that bit with the gospel choir sounds pretty solid.

    The main extra feature on the disc is an audio commentary track featuring Robert W. Morgan accompanied by an unnamed moderator. He speaks about Earth, Wind And Fire’s involvement in the film, the locations used in the film, casting the picture and how the man who played ‘The Old Man’ was actually a Shakespearean actor, how Kenny Miller worked as a singer on cruise boats, shooting the picture from start to finish in two weeks, how he wound up shooting this picture in the first place after watching and learning on a film set, his background in writing, his Bigfoot research, working with William Grefé, some of his own personal experiences in the Florida Everglades and the poaching that goes on in the area, the film’s distribution history, and how he’s like to do Return Of The Blood Stalkers at some point (which he’s already started writing). The commentary is interesting but its structure is problematic in that there are frequent and long stretches of dead air, but when Morgan is talking he’s worth listening to.

    There are a few neat featurettes included on the disc as well, starting with the four-minute Blood Stalkers Revisited featurette that shows footage of Morgan talking to and signing for fans before doing a quick introduction to the film which played as part of an Exhumed Films deal at the Mahonning Drive-In. Some attendees give their thoughts on the film here as well. From there, we get a nineteen-minute interview with Morgan who speaks very candidly here about his thoughts no ‘forest big people’ and sasquatch related phenomena, work that he did in Russia and what it was like living over there for a while, doing work for the American government, how the mob laundered money through the Vatican, Blood Stalkers and more – this guy is a great storyteller and he has no shortage of material!

    Rounding out the extra features we get some nice alternate opening title footage (using The Night Daniel Died in place of Blood Stalkers), a trailer for the feature (again using the Daniel title), a still gallery, a separate gallery that shows off an unproduced screenplay for a film called The Mansion Of Terror, trailers for a few other Garagehouse Pictures releases, menus and chapter selection options. It’s also worth noting that when you start the film you get a quick two-minute introduction from Morgan wherein he explains how and why he wound up acting in his own film.

    It’s also worth noting that that on the reverse side of the cover sleeve art there’s a nice essay from Morgan that’s well worth reading.

    Blood Stalkers – The Final Word:

    Blood Stalkers takes a bit of time to get moving but once it does it proves to be a damn fine low budget, regional horror picture with some great location work, memorable kills, quirky characters and a great soundtrack. Garagehouse Pictures’ Blu-ray release does a good job with some less than ideal elements and throws some welcome extra features into the mix as well that document its history. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blood Stalkers Blu-ray screen caps!