New in select theaters and On Demand and digital download on January 31 from Vertical Entertainment!
Directed by Brad Anderson.
Written by Will Honley.
Starring Michelle Monaghan, Skeet Ulrich, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Skylar Morgan Jones, June B. Wilde, Danika Frederick, Jennifer Rose Garcia
Single mother Jess (Michelle Monaghan) is struggling with keeping up with her demanding job as a nurse, her former addiction to pills, and raising a pair of kids; Tyler (Skylar Morgan Jones) and Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong). Jess is attempting to build a stable life for her kids and moves into a house in the country. But when the kids’ dog takes interest in a spooky old tree in the middle of a marsh, the dog disappears and returns later very different. When the dog bites Owen, it sends the young boy to the hospital where he develops a hunger that only blood can satiate. Now, Jess has to battle her own morality in order to get fresh human blood for Owen to keep him alive.
Brad Anderson, who delivered the absolutely excellent SESSION 9, THE MACHINIST, and much of the FRINGE series, returns to horror with this vampire film and manages to never mention the word vampire once in the entire film. Instead, BLOOD is grounded in reality, focusing on Owen’s addiction to blood and Jess’ dedication to sacrifice everything in order to fill his hunger. This film is a metaphor for the lengths a mother will go to protect and make sure her child is ok. The main problem is that Owen is everything but ok. He goes into convulsions if he eats regular food and the longer he is without fresh blood, the closer he is to starving to death. The film puts Jess into a moral conundrum with no chance for a happy ending. Anderson and his writer Will Honley heap on problem after problem on the back of Monaghan’s Jess and it’s absolutely heart-wrenching to see.
Monaghan is wonderful as Jess, an emotionally complex character faced with a decision to uphold the Hippocratic Oath as a nurse or break it in order to save her son. With pressure from her ex-husband (played by a restrained Skeet Ulrich) to be the perfect mother and a past filled with opiate addiction, Jess is a powder-keg just clinging to some semblance of stability even before her son is bitten. Once she understands what she needs to do in order to save her kid, Jess is forced to go against everything she believes in and ignores everything else, causing all of her spinning plates to wobble and drop. It’s heart-breaking to see Jess twist and turn in order to try to make things right and fail so horribly at every step. Though the vampire story is overplayed, Anderson makes the story riveting the whole way through because of the real life issues Jess and her family face. Seeing them try to adjust to this insane condition really works and I found myself feeling every painful misstep Jess makes.
The effects are pretty subtle. The glowing red eyes effect really communicates the inhuman nature of both the dog and Owen. Later, some more extreme makeup is used as Owen continues to lose his humanity, but for the most part, there’s just a lot of blood spattered all over the place—a must for a modern vampire film.
I was surprise how affected I was by this arduous drama with subtle supernatural elements. Anderson delivers an emotionally charged and viscerally impactful tale of motherhood. Anderson pulled no punches in running this entire family through the ringer and while it hurt to watch it, I have to admire the way this predicament played out and the depths this film went by the end. BLOOD is not feel good horror, but it is strongly acted and provides a conundrum that is as potent for tragedy as you can get.