I have been fortunate enough to see good chunks of each of Adam Mason's previous two films - Broken and The Devil's Chair - early in their production cycles and now thanks to a spin by the newly formed Epic Pictures booth at the American Film Market I can say the same for his third picture, Blood River. I can also now say that Mason is clearly a man growin into his prodigious talent. Broken proved that he could do remarkable things visually on miniscule budgets and that he had a natural ability to build tension. The Devil's Chair was a major step forward in terms of character development and story telling while retaining that hard horror edge. And now Blood River looks to build on the strengths of his previous two pictures while adding a rich cinematic flourish to things. Here's the synopsis for those who may have forgotten:
It's 1969 and Clark and Summer are happily married and she's pregnant. We first meet Summer and Clark as they are driving across California on their way to Arizona to tell Summer's parents the good news about the pregnancy. They drive across the seemingly never ending and desolate desert landscape - they have a blow out. It's a nasty one that sends the car into a massive, near fatal crash. They crawl out of it, hurt but alive, Summer terrified for the well being of her unborn child. The nearest place on the map is the uninviting sounding town of Blood River where they meet a mysterious stranger, Joseph. The clash between Joseph and Clark reaches fever pitch and drives our characters ever closer to a violent, destructive and shocking conclusion that will chill you to the bone.
Blood River is a twisted, manipulative trip into a world of extremes where people are rarely who they seem, where everyone has a secret and where few, if any, will survive.
What they've got available here is a two or three minute trailer reel cut together by Mason last week along with a continuous eight minute scene. The trailer serves notice right away that Mason is advancing, opening with an extended aerial shot to establish the vastness of the desert before stranding the two lead characters and then finally confining them with a raving madman in a deserted town. The extended scene features a confrontation between a very bloody Clark and a tightly bound Joseph that proves Mason hasn't lost his touch when it comes to creating claustrophobic tension and he has certainly not abandoned his love for gorey physical prosthetics.
Considering that Mason only wrapped shooting a couple weeks ago I was expecting this stuff to look very raw but, frankly, if I hadn't known it going in I would never have guessed that this was untreated footage. He has apparently hooked up with a new cinematographer for this outing and the producer told me that he has sworn he'll never work with anybody else moving forward. And it's obvious why. The lighting and compositions are impeccable, the camera moving with far more grace than it has on any of his earlier projects, the end result being film that feels huge despite revolving around only three characters. Very, very nice stuff.