Color, 1990, 90 mins. 27 secs.
Directed by Tanya Rosenberg
Starring Gregory Scott Cummins, Laura Albert, Shelley Abblett, Ken Carpenter, Ross Hagen, Don Dowe, Rhyve Sawyer, George "Buck" Flower, Julie Hall, Paula Manga
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Often referred to as a slasher film, Blood Games actually missed that boat by a couple of years and more accurately falls somewhere between the wilderness survival formula (think Deliverance, Rituals, Southern Comfort, etc.) and the rape-revenge template that had really taken off after Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave. The fact that this had a female director (one-shot Israeli helmer Tanya Rosenberg) also puts it in worthy company with titles like Slumber Party Massacre and Humanoids from the Deep, proving that women can always dole out the exploitation goods with the best of them.
After a softball tournament in the boonies during which they handily beat their yokel male opponents, a female softball team, Babe and the Ballgirls, prepares to unwind with some showering and a collection of their fee. All of those plans are thwarted by the male locals including a peeping tom, Vern (veteran character actor George "Buck" Flower), who gets properly humiliated in the locker room. The rest of the men don't take too kindly to these upstart ladies making them look like fools and so a plan is hatched at the local watering hole to deliver some seriously nasty payback. On the bus ride home, the women including Babe herself (played by Dr. Caligari and The Unnameable's Laura Albert) end up being repeatedly attacked by these pigs, who also kill their coach (Wonder Women's Hagen). An all-out battle for survival ensues in the woods with the former sports competitors now locked in a bloody game of cat and mouse with an ever escalating body count.
Complete with bow and arrow mayhem, Confederate flags, misuse of condoms, and thumping synthesizer score, Blood Games is primo violent junk food with a high entertainment quotient and a willingness to play rough that would have made this a popular drive-in title in an earlier era. The inevitable payback dished out by the Ballgirls is the highlight of course during the last half hour, with the sight of all the leading actresses running loose in the woods with bloody softball bats certainly making this a cinematic first.
Barely shown theatrically by short-lived outfit Vision International (who also handled Teen Witch, Mac and Me, and Troll 2), Blood Games hit VHS from RCA/Columbia (yes, really) and then vanished for years before turning up a few years ago in a widescreen transfer from MGM on various streaming platforms. In 2020, the film received its first physical media release since the '90s as a Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. The packaging cites the transfer as a new 2K scan from the 35mm interpositive, which is borne out here with a presentation that's much more detailed and fresh looking than the earlier (now defunct) streaming version. It looks great from start to finish, with the second half in the woods providing some particularly crisp detail with the bright lighting and foliage everywhere. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 stereo track (with optional English SDH subtitles) also sounds excellent with solid separation for the music throughout. A new video call interview with Albert (10m9s), "Playing a Tough Babe," touches on her transition from modeling to acting, her interest in pursuing a (now successful) career as a stunt woman kindled by this film, the positive experience of working with an Israeli crew, and her continuing friendships with several of her cast mates. Then in "Playing Hardball" (10m7s), actor Ken Carpenter (credited in the film as "Luke Shay") goes into the appeal of running around with a crossbow in the woods, having a good rapport with Flower, and the reason several participants used fake names on the film. A trailer and promotional gallery are also included.
Reviewed on May 22, 2020