Wednesday, March 21, 2018

PATH OF BLOOD (2016) (Synapse Blu-ray Review)

Special Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Synapse Films

Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 62 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA Japanese 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Eric Power
Cast: Kenji Kiuchi, Yoshi Okai, Shinya Wakao and Leo Shue Schuster

Path of Blood (2016) is an ambitious indie-animated film from  director Eric Power, the guy shot this sucker all by himself (aside from the score and voice cast) using  traditional frame-by-frame cut-paper animation, meaning he clipped all these pieces of paper to create the film, which is startlingly detailed all things considered, so this two-years in the making feature is certainly a labor of love, which regardless of what you think about the film can be appreciated.  

I have never been a huge fan of samurai movies, I love all sort of goofy low-grade action and horror but for some reason samurai and kung-fu films have long left me disinterested, only taking one in occasionally on late might TV or when one is sent in for review (such as this one was), and you now what, more often than not I enjoy them, but that doesn't mean I'm seeking them out in my free time the way I do obscure 80's slashers, but I do seem to enjoy them in measure, which brings us to this slice of samurai animation. 

Set in Japan in the year 1614 when samurais find themselves displaced after the war, they wander the countryside as Ronin looking for work where they can find it. One such Ronin is told of a forgotten village where a path leads deep into the mountains, legend has it that those brave and skilled enough with a sword will be rewarded with fortune untold, however, he is also warned that those whom have chosen follow path have never returned, and as such he makes his way to the fabled place in search of meaning and purpose. 

At just over an hour long the movie zings by in no time, the layered paper animation looking a bit like the early South Park episodes, but the story is simple and told straight-faced, this is a dramatic and action packed story, it's not a comedy or spoor as the animation style might intone, this is a love-letter to samurai films

I was surprised by how into the story I got, the animation style draws attention to itself at first but soon enough I was sucked into the story. The action and gore was surprising, sure it's paper-animated, but it is nicely detailed and well pieced together, even the static environmental shots of grasslands and wooded areas are quite amazing, layered in such a way as to give it some illusion of depth. The swordplay and numerous decapitations, disemboweling and bloody limb severing were a riot, again I was impressed how detailed it was, such as bones jutting from the bloody stumps of severed fingers, it's fun but not necessarily comedic, though it does have some laughs, too. 

Audio/Video: Path of Blood (2016) arrives on Blu-ray from Synapse Films framed in 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio, giving the paper-cut animated samurai flick a nice widescreen canvas to work with, which Powers takes full advantage of. The 1080p HD really is crisp, so much so you can see the differing grains and textures of the paper used, even seeing some edges peeling up a bit from the background, it gives the pic some nice illusory depth, more than what I was expecting from paper stop-motion animation. Audio comes by way of robust Japanese DTS-HD MA Japanese 2.0 stereo track with optional English subtitles. I love that Power went with an authentic Japanese dialogue, keeping it true to the genre he's homaging.

Onto he extras we  have an 11-min featurette with director Eric Power who walks us through the process of creating the film, his struggles with a failed crowd-funding campaign and what it was like to single-handedly tackle the ambitious project, scissoring all those trees, characters and whatnot, whew, plus how he achieved the layered look of the film through trial and error. There's also the original 4-min short film, a promo trailer and a video game style trailer, plus an image gallery. 

Special Features:

- “Making of PATH OF BLOOD” Featurette (11 min) 
- PATH OF BLOOD – The Original Short Film (4 min) 
- Original Promotional Trailer (2 min) 
- “Video Game” Inspired Trailer (2 min) 
- Image Gallery (1 min) 

While I am clearly not the ideal audience for this slice of paper-cut samurai action I still had a fun time watching it, finding myself drawn into the Ronin-adventure story quite easily. True fans of samurai films will probably enjoy to an exponentially higher degree, as I'm sure if I was more aware of the genre I would recognize and have fun with the nods and homages to various other films. The Blu-ray from Synapse looks and sounds great, I love that they saw fit to release this, it's not what I would call a traditionally Synapse-esque sort of title, but that's what I love about Don May and the crew at Synapse, you never know what they're gonna release next, but it's always worth checking out, and it's usually at least interesting. 

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