Blood River (2009)

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.


  1. I saw this one at the Egyptian Theater on Tuesday, man, I made a list with a lot more problems, How about the scene of the dead dog and the lady pretending to get sick??? that scene was either for padding (c'mon, if you see something that revolts you, you look away, you don't STARE at the damn thing for pretty much TWO minutes) or so the makers could claim they had a creative latex /dead dogs effect team, I agree with the crash, that guy was pretty much creamed and later it's walking MILES without even limping??, since the drifter could walk at light speed, it was pretty much clear he wasn't a "normal" human being, why bother with the "crazy person" angle, not to mention it is OVERUSED, you are right about the unknown time setting, since the car had a tape player,not a cd player, I would guess more of a early 80's setting, since the 60's were more on the 8-track side, didn't it?, I actually apologized to my friend for taking him to see the movie with me, before the premiere everybody cheered and applauded the creators and pretty much EVERY name that came out on the screen on the beginning, but after the movie ended, people were actually rushing to get the hell out of there, I can't recall if anybody bother to applaud before getting out... the movie was an hour longer than it should and it should have bothered to explain the body of the trunk and the "secret" of the husband, leaving those two things like they did it just shows plain lazyness, sorry for such a long post, but I needed to let it out....

  2. Why is there so much shit produced in the horror genre? I get my hopes up (not necessarily about this movie) and then it turns out to be crap! We've all seen the cheap scares, the gaping black holes in the plot lines, and now I'm just happy if a film maker does not muck up something decent by bringing in a stupid CGI monster for the last 10 minutes (I'm thinking of "Boogeyman"). Hitchcock had the right idea, suspense and not revealing everything is scarier than anything the filmmaker could show us. The idea of Michael Meyers is scarier than the reveal. I keep saying it over and over, but that's why I loved "The Strangers," it was simple, suspenseful, and the "monsters" were never really shown (plus Waylon Jennings never sounded so right).
    Like you, I keep watching crap because I love horror movies, but also like you, I often wonder why I waste my time.

    Now to go find "Cathy's Curse."

    The first thing that came to mind while reading Zed's comment was "Man standing over a dead dog on the highway in a ditch..." In my world I can always bring it back to Bruce or The Simpsons.

  3. I saw this film and it's great !
    Get a fucking life !!!

    1. how is it great? please explain! because it made no sense at all!!

  4. "...was the character just a child molester?"
    shit man what the fuck is wrong with you? "just"? like that's no big deal!!! something's wrong with you man...
    and the movie was actually good!

  5. ok film, didn't really expect a lot anyway, annoying we never find out his secret, and the whole body in the boot thign just confused me! other then that ok!

  6. The difficulty lies in execution. If there is some divine scheme, it would serve some kind of purpose to at least reveal the sins of those he is punishing. Otherwise the "argument" is one sided and the point is lost. If one is willing to sit through the entire film there should be some "light at the end of the tunnel". One way or another.

  7. Movie was way lame the only enjoyment I got was reading the first two reviews about it on this web site. Waaaaaay longer than it needed to be. Anyone that claims to like it is just a pretentious fuck that is not being honest or was mentally watching a different movie. FUCK YOU FOR BAITING ME INTO WASTING AN 1:40!!!! >: O

  8. The stepfather molested his stepson (Remember when Joseph says to Clark, "we kids must stick together, keep secrets" *wink wink*); the boy was never physically killed. Remember the trunk was open when they first broke body? The "body" was an illusion to try and get the stepfather to repent. And the woman's sin? Apathy. Joesph says this at the end of the film...that somewhere, deep inside, the mother knew what was going on but refused to acknowledge or do anything about it. Apathy. It's tacit consent to an evil. (And no, I'm not Xtian.) Atheist. But, contrary to popular belief, we are capable of having morals.

    1. Thank u 4 clearing that up for me...your synopsis makes since!

    2. Personally, I loved this movie. The person reviewing is clearly used to things being spoon-fed with lots of sprinkles. "Blood River" is not a horror film. It is a psychological thriller, mainly because it lets you fill in the blanks with your own doubts, insecurities, and fears. In this case, what many plebeians might perceive as plot holes are in fact carefully-crafted mysteries. They are used in the writing to hide Clark's crimes for the same reason shadows are used to visually hide the monsters. Only allusion and suspense are used to create the 'thrill'. As for the boy's body in the trunk, I took it to be an illusion and also a metaphor for the fact that Clark's sins against the boy (molestation or not) killed his spirit, ended his innocence.
      As for the dead dog, that also (in my opinion) was a visual metaphor for the imminent death of the wife's trust and love for Clark. Why wouldn't the film makers have used a deer or some other animal? Because no other animal is as loyal and loving as a dog.
      This film was a deeply frightening commentary on the nature of sin and evil. There is little gore, much intelligent subtlety, and for that reason it went largely unnoticed. Its independent origins are no excuse- Paranormal Activity was independently made, and now its a cliché in pop culture.

    3. I am so glad to have read your comment because I did not connect the we are all just kids remark. It was driving me crazy. You rock!!!

    4. I had exactly and the same thoughts except the trunk bit...finally a proper explanation and not just panning the film because of not understanding it.

  9. I liked the "they're already dead" idea but sadly it was not to be. I was let down by not knowing the secret and the whole car boot bit. How did Joseph suddenly dissapear and pop up next to the wife they left 5 miles back? Divine intervention perhaps? The penny drops with clark when he realises his wife might be in danger and, after the gruelling 5 mile walk (where he fell down with exhaustion and drank a whole canteen of water) to the car, he manages to run the whole way back with no water. If Joseph really was an angel of death, it would have been nice to see the wife ask forgiveness or something as his subsequent actions may answer a lot of questions about who he really was. I give the film 7/10 just because it made me think which most Hollywood films rarely do.

  10. The child is dead. The body in the trunkis the child. The main character goes ballistic when he sees it because its thrown in his face and its pretty much revealed. He did the deed and cleaned up the mess and before you know it the child is pretty much haunting him. Its his disbelief because he realizes how real shit got. The drifter is an angel. I thought it was a great movie.

  11. Ya the movie doesn't make sense in a lot of ways..but it does leave room for the imagination and I love the desert scenes and feel to it. Another question to ponder is why would a righteous angel of God drink and smoke? Why did he mark Sommer with a cross on her forehead lest she forget since it's implied she was left in the desert to die there? and I DID see 3 graves dug...I reckon one for Clark, one for Sommer and one for Benny. The movie does have a lot of mismatched logic that would give Spock a headache but for some reason I love this movie.

  12. bad, boring and tiring

  13. You've summed this up quite nicely...I hate movies that lead you the entire movie then leave you wondering at the end. Everything you mentioned was dead on!

  14. The commenters here are basically divided into two camps:

    On one hand are people who dislike the film because it had some irrational parts and lack of explanations. On the other hand are people who enjoyed the irrationalities and ambiguities.

    Personally I am in the latter camp because I like the idea being challenged to fill in the blanks. Makes me feel more engaged in the movie.

  15. Seems to me all the peeps who hated this movie don't want anything less than being spoon fed one nugget of info at a time like a typical Nick Cage movie where at the end he takes out the bad guy and gets to bang the hot chick.

    All the hints and nuggets of what was actually happening were right there before your eyes but you peeps have been trained by mainstream films to not think only passively take in what you're told.

    To the dude who says you couldn't tell it was the 60s just from the car, that's right you have to ask yourself why they got hurt by the crash and that was because the car had no seat belts since they were not mandated back then. Also Clark is a guy with money so why is he driving an old car? Because the car was modern at the time of when the movie is supposed to be taking place. Also the radio station was playing the kind of old evangelical show that were popular back then. The getup of the hotel was old school. The characters' clothes were old school. Clark wanted to check the old beaters in the ghost town for gas so clearly they weren't that old from his point of view. Basically every prop in the movie was old school but in good shape. Add all that together and it should start to make sense that the action was taking place several decades ago. The info you need is all there all you have to do is think.

  16. You all missed it. The drifter is the kid as an angel.

    Not many people understand movies but these writers are good. Almost had me fooled until he kept saying he knew Clark.


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