Monday, May 24, 2021

HUNTING GROUND (1983) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 105 Minutes 
Audio: Spanish and English-dub DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Jorge Grau
Cast: Assumpta Serna, Víctor Valverde, Luis Hostalot, Montserrat Salvador, José Antonio García Romeu

In Jorge Grau's Hunting Ground a.k.a. Code of Hunting (1983) politically liberal female defense lawyer Adele (Assumpta Serna, Matador) passionately defends her criminal clients in court, firmly believing that criminals deserve a second chance, and that criminality tends to be a result societal inequities. These left-leaning ideas however do not prevent her from becoming a target of the very criminal element she defends in court. In the courtroom a pair of local hoods, Travolta (José Antonio García Romeu) and Mauri (Luis Hostalot, What Have I Done To Deserve This?), see Adele in action and decide she'd make an easy enough target. They follow her from the court to a grocery store where they steal her car while she's inside shopping. Later, while removing her stereo they find the keys to her country villa, along with it's address, and decide to fleece the place. 

The criminal dup team-up with El Chato (Sahli Mimoun Amar El) and Travolta's younger, epileptic brother Juani (Manuel Rodríguez) to assist in the villa before robbing it, but while doing so discover that Adele, her surgeon husband Jorge (Víctor Valverde), and mother-in-law Carmen (Montserrat Salvador, Cannibal Terror) have arrived at the villa for a weekend getaway. When the family leaves at the end of the weekend the crooks move in, but are surprised by the sudden return of Adele and her family to retrieve some forgotten court papers. They are held at gunpoint and things get out of hand, during a brief struggle over a shotgun Jorge is blasted in the face with the shotgun and killed instantly. 

In the aftermath Travolta,  Mauri and El Chato escape, but Juani is apprehended by police after suffering an epileptic siezure during the getaway, and sent to jail to await trial. Meanwhile, Adele gives a forgiving account of her husband's death, describing it as accidental in nature, but that does stop Travolta, Mauri, and Chata from launching an intense intimidation campaign against her. They make alarming phone calls to her home and harass her in public, threatening her life and the life of her children if she does not recant her story to the police, and get Juani released from jail. However, when Juani dies while in custody the criminals, lead by the vengeance seeking Travolta, again arrive at the Villa where Adele, her son and daughter, and mother-in-law have gathered for the Christmas holiday, and the nightmare begins again. 

Directed by Jorge Grau (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) Hunting Ground is gripping, sleazy crime story that takes its sweet time building up a proper head of steam, with the first half dedicated to slowly establishing Adele's family life, her controversial legal views, as well as establishing the villainy of the criminal element, whom we witness violently beat a shop owner and rob a street beggar at knifepoint. 

When it does get going though the film offers a potent mix of home-invasion styled exploitation and some hard-to-stomach sexual violence perpetrated upon Adele, with the liberal lawyer degraded and forced to defend her family from the vicious criminals. It's a tasty bit of revenge with her young son even getting in on the action, blasting away at the crooks with his father's shotgun! Some of the violence it quite shocking, including the men setting Adele's crotch on fire! While the gore and bloodshed is limited the violence strong stuff, particularly there at the end. 

The film is very well-acted with some interesting emotional struggles being depicted, it's interesting to see Adele struggle with her beliefs, and how her son and mother-in-law feel about her views in the wake of Jorge's death, in addition to how she is derided by the police and other lawyers for her lenient views on crime. Serna turns in a nuanced and fearless performance that puts her in several uncomfortable to see predicaments that are difficult to watch.  

Audio/Video: Hunting Ground (1983) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in 1080p HD framed in 1.66:1 widescreen, and is sourced from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. It looks great, the source is free of blemishes with a fair amount of depth and clarity to it. Grain is well-managed, though it can be a bit intrusive during the darker scenes, but fine detail and texture is very pleasing, it's a very organic looking transfer.

Audio comes by way of Spanish and English-dubbed DTS-HD MA 2.O with optional, newly translated English subtitles. The Spanish tracks feels more natural and has more depth than the dubbed English option, but both are clean and well-balanced, though I do give the edge to the Spanish presentation. 

Extras are a bit on the slim side, we get a career spanning archival interview with director Jorge Grau that runs about 49-minutes and 14-minutes of Mondo Macabro previews. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring a new illustration by Justin Coffee. 

Special Features:
- Archival interview with director Jorge Grau (49 min) 
- Mondo Macabro Previews (14 min) 

Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray of Hunting Ground (1983) looks great, and while the extras are slim, the film itself is a solid exploitation revenger with some home-invasion elements and impactful sexual violence that should appeal to fans of sleazy exploitation along the lines of The Last House on the Left and House on the Edge of the Park. 

Screenshots from the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray: