"Hunter's Blood" (citywide) is a low-budget "Deliverance"-derived rural thriller, basted with Southern Comfort. Its plot--five hunters descending into a backwoods hell of guffawing gargoyle poachers and redneck degenerates--is certainly familiar. And, by the end, implausibility, sadism and the intrusion of a sexy wife have disabled it.

It's better, however, than some others of its type. The photography may be a bit muddy, but Robert C. Hughes' direction is coherent and well paced. The script is tight and the dialogue isn't idiotic--except where it's supposed to be. Some of the actors are fine. The movie holds your interest without rewarding it, though it's sometimes an interesting critique of machismo, laced with dark humor.

Its best quality is its slow buildup, the way the characters get time to stretch and breathe. Clu Gulager and Ken Swofford are especially good here--wryly critiquing machismo by carrying it to two contrasting extremes: stoic heroism and jocular recklessness.

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