• Blood Games (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 22nd, 2020.
    Director: Tanya Rosenberg
    Cast: Gregory Scott Cummins, Laura Albert, Shelley Abblett, Ken Carpenter, Ross Hagen, Don Dowe, George 'Buck' Flower
    Year: 1990
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Blood Games – Movie Review:

    "At the bottom of the ninth, it's every man for himself!"

    Sports ruin a lot of things, don’t they? It's time to celebrate the birthday of one Roy Collins (Gregory Scott Cummins) and his dad, Mino (Ken Carpenter as Luke Shay), his arranged it so that his son’s baseball team is going to go up against Babe And The Ballgirls, an all-female softball team in very skimpy uniforms led by… Babe (Laura Albert). All the local yokels show up for the game (including a beer-swilling George ‘Buck’ Flower sporting a hat that reads ‘The Check Is In The Mail!’), so imagine Mino’s disappointment when Roy’s team gets their collective ass handed to them by the ladies. Making matters worse is the fact that Mino has lost a cool grand betting against Midnight (Ross Hagen), the Ballgirls’ coach, on his son to bring home the bacon, so now he’s out a good bit of money and all for nothing!

    During the game, Midnight, gets upset at Roy’s team for trying to manhandle the girls and/or get their clothes off – which is completely fair. But when the game is all said and done the girls head back, shower and get cleaned up and Midnight goes to collect and winds up getting his ass kicked. Mino isn’t taking this well. Then Roy and his pal Holt (Don Dowe) try to rape Ballgirls Mickey (Lisa Zambrano) and Connie (Sabrina Hills) but this is put to a stop when Babe and Midnight show up – but then Midnight and one of the Ballgirls get killed, so it isn’t such a happy ending.

    At this point, Babe gets the rest of the teammates into their bus and does her best to get the fuck out of Dodge. They head into the woods only to be followed by Mino, who we learn is an ex-mercenary with a penchant for crossbows, and a few of his friends. Eventually the chase leaves the vehicles behind and the girls find themselves hunted down in the woods by psychopathic rapist hillbillies – this won’t end well.

    Blood Games is pretty rapey, so know that going in. Pretty much all of the men in the film are assholes, so know that going in as well. But the movie entertains. It gets tense at times and offers a few interesting kills (one notable kill involving a dumpster). It was directed by a woman, Tanya Rosenberg, but don’t look to this as any sort of feminist statement. It’s an exploitation picture complete with exposed boobs, white shirts that can barely contain the aforementioned boobs sans bras, and tight shorts that creep up between the cheeks. The Ballgirls are basically dressed like strippers. Still, this has a few things going in its favor that save it in a pretty big way, and the best of these things is Laura Albert. Not only is she a fine looking woman but she can actually act and she handles herself very well here in an early role (she’s gone on to do a lot of stunt work and also appeared as an actress in some very cool stuff, not the least of which is Stephen Sayadian's 1989 picture Dr. Caligari). The lady has screen presence and acting chops to spare and her presence makes up for the fact that the rest of the ladies cast as the Ballgirls were clearly cast for their looks and not their acting abilities.

    Ken Carpenter is also pretty solid here. He makes a good bad guy. He runs around the woods with his bad guy pals yelling at everyone and shooting crossbow bolts with plenty of enthusiasm and he’s entertaining as all Hell to watch. Throw in the great George ‘Buck’ Flower as the only one of the redneck guys in this movie that you don’t love to hate (you can’t hate Buck, it’s a rule) and a pretty intense finale and this works out to be a genuinely entertaining movie. It never feels all that original and some of the kills in the last third of the picture could and should have been more over the top than they were, but overall, this one is a fun watch. It also features a woman blow-drying another woman’s breasts.

    Blood Games – Blu-ray Review:

    Blood Games debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just under 27GBs of space. Newly restored in 2k from the original 35mm interpositive, the image is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks fine. The dustiness of the opening scene means it is a bit soft at times but that’s literally to do with dust in the air at times from the players sliding into bases and what not. Otherwise, this is another impressive transfer from Vinegar Syndrome. Detail is very good, especially in facial close ups, and skin tones look great. There isn’t much in the way of print damage here at all, the transfer is very clean looking, and we get solid depth and texture as well. There are no problems with any compression artifacts and the picture is devoid of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. The expected amount of grain is there, this is nice and film-like throughout.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 track sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is fine, if not super robust or anything. The dialogue is always easy to understand and to follow and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion at all. When the synths kick in on the soundtrack it kicks along pretty nicely and the move action-intensive scenes have some decent depth to them.

    The first extra on the disc is Playing A Tough Babe, which is an interview with actress Laura Albert that lasts ten-minutes. It was conducted via video conferencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic happening at the time of this writing, so the quality is less than ideal, but that doesn’t take away from its value. Albert speaks about how she got into acting after winning a modelling show and wining some lessons, and how she’s gotten into stunt work despite having no interest in it before making Blood Games where she was impressed with her own stunt woman and developing an interest in it. She talks about working with director Tanya Rosenberg, working with an Israeli director and crew, the friendships that she formed with some of the cast members for years, shooting on location above Fresno, what it was like on set, how she transitioned into stunt work after the shoot and how she has nothing but fond memories from working on the film.

    A second featurette, Playing Hardball, interviews actor Ken Carpenter for ten-minutes where he speaks about how the idea of being out in the woods with a crossbow in the movie appealed to him given that he’d grown up in the type of environment that this would be comfortable for him. He then talks about why he used the Luke Shay alias in this non-union movie, what he found interesting about his character in the film, how he doesn’t mind playing the bad guy when it is a good role, what it was like on location, how impressed he was with the predominantly female cast, working alongside Buck Flowers who coached him a bit on the film and the friendship they formed, the demands of some of the action and stunt scenes, particularly in the finale, and more.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes a promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection and it comes packaged with some very cool reversible cover artwork.

    Blood Games – The Final Word:

    Blood Games might not offer a whole lot in the way of surprises but it is a pretty tense backwoods horror picture with some memorable set pieces and characters. Entertaining from start to finish, it’s a more effective thriller than its reputation might lead you to believe and Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray, which looks and sounds really nice, does a great job with the presentation.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Blood Games screen caps!