JANUARY 21, 2011
Sometimes after watching a movie I only have 2-3 notes, and that's bad for when I write the review. Not that I need to consult my notes nonstop when writing (my memory may suck, but it's not THAT bad), but it means that the movie didn't grab or affect me, good or bad. Bad Blood (Portuguese: Coisa Ruim) is one such film; it wasn't bad, but nothing stuck out about it either - it was just sort of THERE (the Portuguese people do not agree - it won Best Picture at their Golden Globes).
My notes aren't even particularly enlightening either, one just says "No dub", which has nothing to do with the movie but is just referring to the fact that the DVD did not have a dubbed option (yet it had three different Portuguese tracks in various surround formats). While I prefer the original language, obviously, sometimes it's nice to have the option, especially for a talky movie like this. I swear, entire scenes would go by without my ever getting a chance to really look at the image, because I'd be focused on the bottom of the screen for the entire time. Few horror films can be accused of being too talky, which is why I don't usually care that there's no dubbed option.
The other note is "blurry", which refers to directors Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra's habit of filming things out of focus, particularly establishing shots and the like. I suspect it's some sort of visual metaphor for the story itself, which is also a bit obscured and "blurry" at times. The movie is about a middle aged couple, their three children, and infant grandchild moving into an ancestral home in a town where most people leave - our heroes are looked at it with suspicion for being the rare family to move IN. All well and good, but some things concerning the various "horror movie" elements are never explained and/or glossed over, particularly the subplot (for lack of a better word) about the older brother's attitude toward his unwed sister, who has a child but never speaks about the father. There is a suggestion that the child may actually be his (ewww), but they never follow through on it either way - it's left up to our imagination.
I also don't get why there are some standard haunted house movie moments in a tale of demonic possession. Very early in the film, the younger brother goes to check on the baby since he/we can hear it crying, but as he opens the door the camera pans down to reveal that the child is sound asleep, pacifier still intact. It's a great creepy moment, but it doesn't have any place in the film once we realize that the older brother is possessed, which is causing... uh, something. That's never really made clear; the "exorcism" scene just sort of comes out of nowhere and ends just as quickly - even Ti West would find this movie lacking in the "buildup/payoff" ratio.
However, I did enjoy watching the film, in that I wasn't bored, didn't fall asleep, etc. The performances across the board were great, and the characters came across as very real. I particularly liked when the mother looked over the older son's shoulder as he did his schoolwork, and he pointed out her feigning interest despite not understanding what it was - reminded me of my own mom, watching some godawful horror movie with me and somehow managing to not yell "Why do you WATCH this crap?". And there's a lot of debate about superstition and faith, which I always enjoy as I myself struggle with these concepts from time to time, and it's certainly more interesting than the usual conversations I hear in horror films (which tend to be about the sexual history of its characters, or lack thereof, and/or the extent one wishes to "party").
The thing is, I wasn't exactly expecting a gorefest, so the fact that it favored atmosphere and characterization over trailer-worthy thrills didn't disappoint me - the movie had me up until the shrug of a climax. I mentioned Ti West; what made House of the Devil work for me was the tension straining, the identifiable situation (I've babysat precisely two more times than I have moved into creepy old estates in Portugal where my only friend was a priest), and the brilliant "You're not the babysitter?" moment that bought the movie some time. Bad Blood, on the other hand, doesn't have that kind of moment, so once you realize that the conclusion wasn't worth the wait, not only makes it a bit of a letdown, but also would make it hard to recommend - I can't exactly say "Just stick with it, the ending's awesome!" like I would for other movies that were a bit on the slow side. On the other hand, it's very much the type of movie I wish folks were making more often - horror films that are more concerned with dramatic elements, and thus I'd encourage folks to watch it on the basis that it's not run of the mill in any way. I'm torn!!!
The DVD offers a half hour making of that covers the usual ground, though both of the directors (one handles technical matters while the other works with the actors) discuss how they sort of wanted to make a horror movie but weren't sure what KIND of horror movie to do, and how they wouldn't give much information to the actors during the casting process. This might explain some of the movie's vagueness, but it's also kind of troubling that the 30 minute making of covers all bases about a 97 minute film that leaves so much to the imagination.
What say you?