About the Author: R.D Francis is the writer of The Ghosts of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis. Both non-fiction works explore the myth and mystery behind the 1974 album, Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1—an album many believed to be a solo album by Jim Morrison of the Doors. You can read his music and film criticisms on Medium and learn more about the Phantom on Facebook.
In the post-Halloween slasher universe, dentists and podiatrists who wanted to become “film producers” realized all you needed to make a movie was a patch of woods, well-endowed amateur females with a good set of pipes for screaming (and racks for gawkin’), and some guys with ironically bad dental work and gnarly bare feet with a penchant for some good ‘ol fashioned, down home rapin’ n’ killin’. Ya’ll don’t be needin’ no stinkin’ script or character development ‘round ‘ere. Cum on, Uncle Jed. We’s be headin’ to the hills to make us Jethro BoDean into a bonerfide movin’ pickture star.
Looking back on the rednecksploitation (you can call it backwoodsploitation or hicksploitation if you like) era that ignited with John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972; based on the James Dickey novel), you begin to realize it was Deliverance—and not Halloween—that served as the jump-off point for Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th. Outside of F13’s Michael Myers-clone in Jason Voorhees and the accoutrements of Italian Giallo-inspired gore, it’s Boorman’s Deliverance that served as the true antecedent to most of the product from the ‘80s slasher cycle—for the true terror lurks in the woods.
However, while Deliverance has an underlying social statement about America’s class structure and questions who is stronger in a battle of wills between primitive man vs. civilized man (a message also found in Sam Peckinpaw’s Straw Dogs; 1971), all the films produced in its backwash threw away plots (that were cookie cutter n’ boilerplated anyway), character development and underlying themes, and amped the violence—even more so in a post-John Carpenter world. Macon County Line (1974), Death Weekend (1976), Rituals (1977), Just Before Dawn (George Kennedy, The Uninvited) and Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort (both 1981) each own their debt to Boorman’s backwoods-terror vision.
At their core, most redneck flicks are just darker versions of the ‘ol fish-out-of-water masterplot where the protagonists—in this case, an obligatory group of four or five dick-swinging intellectuals, with at least one testosterone-jacked jock in tow—look and act differently that the surrounding protagonists—i.e., inbred redneck poachers—and don’t understand their foreign-backwoods environs as well as their citified arrogance leads them to believe. Of course, the additional twist: When the city-fishies are out of water in a thriller-cum-suspense horror environ: they must piss off the locals. Oh, and there has to be at least one stupid woman that wasn’t invited on the woodland adventure who decides to “surprise” her husband, because, well, Cletus and Bocephus ain’t bin wid no whimin’ fer a lerng, lerng time.
And that’s the plot of Robert C. Hughes’ Hunter’s Blood: Five city slickers go-a deer huntin’ and meet up with Redneck Local Rotary 666 and, well, anyone with a G.E.D would get the fuck out of the woods, go back to suburbia, bang Kim Delaney, and then fire up their copy of Arcadia’s Deer Hunter Skeet Shoot projection video game. And if you got no one to do the shimmy-sham: find yourself a nice, citified wings n’ ribs grill with Big Buck Hunter in the corner by the restrooms, pop a quarter, and call it day. Nope. Not in Hunter’s Blood country.
“Hey, Pop. How come we didn’t buy beer and stock our coolers in the city before we left for inbred country,” ask David (Sam Bottoms, Up from the Depths by the guru of redneck cinema, Charles B. Griffith).
“Shut up, you’re ruining the plot, son,” head smacks Mason (Clu Gulager, Burt from Return of the Living Dead!!!). “Now pull into that general store so we can buy beer and I can kick some redneck ass and unleash their wrath before Kim Delaney shows up to be raped.”
“Tobe’s Gas Stop? Hey, that’s funny. They named it after Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” says Marty (John Travolta’s less-talented brother, Joey).
“Shut up and quit trying to act, Joey. Just sit over there and wait to be killed,” yells Al (Ken Swofford of Black Roses and a snake-bag load of American TV series). “Look at my IMDb resume, I know what I’m talking about. Now go get a real estate license and quit irritating me, kid.”
All joking aside: What makes Hunter’s Blood the type of hicksploitation classic we love here at B&S Movies is its who’s who of B-movie badassery backing up Clu and Ken (both appear in Terror at London Bridge): You have Lee De Broux as “Red Beard” (Salvage 1 and Robocop), Charles Cyphers as “Woody” (Carpenter mainstay; Assault on Precinct 13), Billy Drago as “Snake” (Invasion U.S.A and The Untouchables), and Bruce Glover as “One Eye” (Yep, Crispin’s dad; Walking Tall) . . . and Mickey Jones (!) as “Wash Pot” (Slingblade, Total Recall, National Lampoon’s Vacation . . . the dude was Bob Dylan’s and Kenny Roger’s drummer and earned 17 gold records!).
And wid-a cast like that, ya’ll don’t be needin’ no stinkin’ script or character development. Bend over and squeal like a pig, and enjoy it, son.
Need more Robert C. Hughes-backwoods terror? He returned with Memorial Valley Massacre (1989). The unrated, pseudo-Eurotrash cut of the film, Son of Sleepaway Camp, marketed as a bogus sequel to 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, goes all “Jess Franco” with hardcore sex and amped gore scenes inserted.