MARCH 24, 2009
“Is this the banality you came to see!?!?!”
I don’t know if that is the exact quote from The Devil’s Chair, but the gist is there. In that film, the narrator mocked the viewer for liking horror movies. That, added to the utterly reprehensible bullshit that was Broken, left me feeling pretty sore about the filmmaking team of Adam Mason and Simon Boyes. However, since Chair showed marked improvement over Broken, I figured I would give their newest film, Blood River, a fair chance, even going so far as to take the night off to attend the premiere and rub shoulders with such Hollywood royalty as Xander Berkeley and Balthazar Getty (a premiere for a presumably big budget Hollywood movie over at the Mann’s must have driven away the likes of premiere staples Bai Ling and the fat guy from Borat).
And again, they have showed improvement. Blood River is, if nothing else, extremely well-shot, capably acted, and occasionally engaging. However, it’s not enough to warrant a pass for the film as a whole, as it still has several problems, and simply not being abysmal isn’t enough to justify its faults.
For starters, the movie is supposed to be set in 1969. This is never established with anything like a title card (I learned it from the written plot synopsis); instead they just show old Life magazines on a table and have the hero drive a cool “classic” car. The problem is, even present day movies, ESPECIALLY ones set in nearly-empty desert towns, have such things - it shows their “time has passed us by” nature. Likewise, our hero and heroine don’t dress any different than an average couple would today. Plus, shooting on digital doesn’t help matters in the slightest; you can’t ever really buy into a period feeling when you’re seeing it all through a very modern point of view. The period setting doesn’t really have any effect on the story (other than a reason why the couple doesn’t have cell phones, but those scenes are always written away with the “no service out here!” line anyway), so why they bothered I have no idea.
But the real problem of the movie is that it simply doesn’t make a lick of sense. The guy from Devil’s Chair is again the star, but this time he is playing a drifter who may or may not be an Angel working for God. Not the worst concept, but why he spends so much time toying with the couple (one of whom has a dark secret, ooooh) is never clarified. I mean, he’s working for God to punish sinners, right? They are hardly a rare breed; is it really the best use of his time to fuck around with just ONE guy for two days straight? He coulda probably have stopped 10 sinners in that time had he just gone up to the couple, said “Hey, I need to tell you something” and been on his way.
But to be fair, he needs to do SOME legwork to get his results. An early scene shows us that he doesn’t inflict the killing blow on anyone; he seemingly needs to convince them to kill themselves, or in this case, have a “good” person kill the sinner. It’s never explained WHY he can’t do this, but fine. So why not just go up to the wife and say “Hey, your husband’s a child killer, the proof is in the trunk.” (actually I’m just assuming he’s a child killer - the script, again, doesn’t bother to explain WHAT the guy’s “sin” is, only that it has something to do with the woman’s son, his stepson). Why steal the spare tire and make up a story about being out of gas (especially when they know the guy’s a hitchhiker, a fact the couple never bothers to address) and go through 80 minutes of this shit just to end up pretty much doing that anyway? Like a woman WOULDN’T go ballistic on her new husband when she discovered he had done something awful to her 5 year old son, regardless of how much mental/physical strain she had endured in the hours prior to the discovery? Bullshit.
Of course, had logic been used, either on the script level or from the characters themselves, there would be no movie. So let’s move on.
Back to the “sin” - when your entire movie is built around this guy who we think is a good person turns out to be pretty bad, don’t you think it’s kind of necessary to explain exactly WHAT his sin is? I can’t even really buy the “child killer” angle, because the guy seems shocked to discover the kid’s corpse in the trunk, and not in a “how did THAT get here?” way but more in an “Oh my god my stepson is dead!” way. Assuming he wasn't just a lousy actor, was the character just a child molester? If so, did the Angel kill the kid? But he can’t kill anyone by his own hand, right? So who the fuck knows. For all I know the kid is a macguffin and his sin was stealing two grapes from the supermarket.
And I won’t even begin to wonder why everyone in the southwestern United States has a thick British accent.
I also had to laugh at the blown-tire scene. Like The Roost, we don’t actually see the accident; we just hear it and then see an aftermath that suggests a far more powerful force than a blown tire. I mean, they’re in THE DESERT, and yet we hear the car smashing into things. Plus our couple is pretty banged up. A few years ago, I blew a tire in heavy traffic on the CT turnpike and I didn’t even get a scratch on myself OR the car; how did this jackoff manage to mangle up his front end and practically tear his arm off?
(The one screenwriting decision I CAN laud is that this accident didn’t kill them - for a while I thought we were in “they’ve been dead the whole time” territory, but that wasn’t the case. The real case wasn’t much better, but at least it wasn’t a cliché)
At this point, I feel I have no choice but to give up on this filmmaking team. They show some talent in both writing and directing departments (again - the film is particularly well shot), but together their films always underwhelm at best. Each film shows improvement over the last, and that’s laudable (most modern horror filmmakers seemingly go the other way), but not enough to suggest that there is a solid, good film in the near future. Call me when they get to their tenth project together, then they might have something.
What say you?
*For a fucking premiere??? Jesus Christ. It's bad enough when they do shit like this at a film festival, but come on now.