Blood River

cast: Tess Panzer, Ian Duncan, Andrew Howard, and Sarah Essex

director: Adam Mason

102 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Revolver DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by A.E. Grace

Blood River

Blood River really puts me in mind of a Flannery O’Connor story entitled, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, a short fiction piece which entails a ruthless criminal called ‘The Misfit’, who ambushes a family embarking on a road-trip, and serves them up some slack-jawed trial and retribution in the name of “Jayzus-Chrast, Amen!” If you’re familiar with the Flannery O’Connor story, or any other American road-trip stories, then you might just enjoy this film.

The text runs in a linear fashion, with one singular topic; much like a piece of short fiction. For its aim and subject matter, I thought this was a great idea. The movie doesn’t bombard its audience with too many clichés, although clichés are present and necessary as ever, and the character performances – particularly that of Joseph, played by Andrew Howard – are very good.

The theme of the film is an examination of an evangelical prophecy, which comes from the unlikely and seemingly unworthy societal dropout named Joseph, who trawls the long sandy roads of rural America to stumble upon his next disciple. When a young couple abandon the hitchhiker by the roadside and then breakdown several miles later, they find themselves in need of this misfit-character to find their way out of the desert.

Of course, their paths do not cross with Joseph by chance, and they find that the only way out of the desolate wasteland they’re trapped in is the road to salvation – a road which, quite satisfyingly, is a path both are undeserving of. I found that this film wrapped up nicely, Joseph’s narrations giving the audience the impression they’ve witnessed a great secret, ending this lonesome, wandering character’s part in the movie by introduction of another victim – or patient, I guess. I enjoyed the way this film wrapped up at the end with a sly wink, just like one of Roald Dahl’s stories, and it doesn’t give or take more than it needs to.

However, on the subject of giving and taking, there are a few times that this movie doesn’t quite quench my thirst. Ambiguity becomes an essential part of the appeal towards the end, and although I admired this humble, yet charmingly profound technique, I felt like I wasn’t quite getting enough out of the 100 minutes I’d just invested in this story.

Although we only really follow three characters throughout the film, this doesn’t bode well in terms of pacing; I found myself demanding answers by the finish, a reward for all the hinting and suggesting I’d lapped up, but the film fell short – there were no answers. The story doesn’t require them. Now, I understand that this was probably the writer and director’s intention; ambiguity is vital for the biblical, trial and retribution theme to really have an impact. But without parallel storylines to distract the audience with once in a while, the river does tend to run dry – and I’m afraid this film is no exception.

There was also a slight issue in regards to genre, given that initially I was expecting some gory slasher film with whooping hillbillies and pick-up trucks. There are times when the story becomes quite violent, and I almost thought the film was taking me in that direction – only to swerve me on to another path. On one hand, I realise this is a clever trick – nobody would assume the ‘angel’ of this story would be the retreatist trailer trash – but, on the other, I’m wondering if the genre became confused in parts.

Overall, the sound and picture quality is pretty top notch, barring some clumsy special effects makeup towards the film’s climax, but that’s forgivable – I’m a Cronenberg fan, after all. I’d recommend this movie for a lazy night in, just don’t go expecting too much – this is no racy Hollywood blockbuster, just a film with a little difference.