Fantastic Fest 2020 Review: BLOODTHIRSTY Lacks Its Titular Desire
This year there has been no slow-down of low budget, singular Indie horror films set in an isolated cabin, holiday home or retreat surrounded by the elements. Bloodthirsty does nothing to differentiate itself, this is a watchable yet uncompelling feature from Director Amelia Moses.
The focus is on vegan (important) Indie pop wunderkind Grey (Lauren Beatty), and the transformation she feels is required to ensure her next album does not flop. Grey, along with semi-suffering girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) shack up with music producer Vaughn (Greg Bryk) and his creepy housekeeper Vera (Judith Buchan) in a remote and snow-swept studio in the woods, which conveniently has a junk yard nearby.
The specific process to record the sophomore album and unleash her true potential boils down to manipulation on Vaugn’s part, but there is a specific connection between the two that is more than raw charisma. Something initially unexplainable that puts them on the same wavelength and it is not long before Grey ditches her hallucination medication due to his suggestion that it is holding her back. Is he just referring to her music career, or something far more sinister?
The interesting dynamic between Grey and Vaughn mostly works; before his notorious past is revealed he is already cast as an enigmatic villain, a tortured artist that if played up could have been more memorable. The songs the pair compose and which Grey half-performs sell the scene in the impressive recording studio. This is because actor Lauren Beatty is also a singer. Original songs are by Lowell but do they match the ferocity of the inevitable horror that is conveyed? While the repetition of each performed line effectively demonstrates the exhaustion and pressure of the creative process, sacrifice and suffering for art, the tone of the track does not vibe with the primal horror central to the film, which is alluded to in the transgressive opening shot.
Grey’s ambition clashes with girlfriend Charlie’s caring nature, but their awkward romantic chemistry and low key lesbian drama is hard to get invested in. The first twenty minutes are middling conversations and mild foreshadowing that is presented too dully to feel any tension. It is clear why the first scene in Bloodthirsty is the most dynamic and violent but it barely maintains the intrigue until the blood starts flowing again much later.
While the themes grasp at something interesting enough to elevate this creature feature, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Questionable cinematography frames characters poorly and kills the immersion. The majority of the horror is off-screen, possibly due to the budget but the setup is still flat, with artless composition both in the transformation and the violence. Ideas of conflicting values, Grey’s veganism and the transgressive act of eating meat can be mused upon, but this additional theme is merely window dressing. Further the actual act of transformation that Grey undergoes is arguably the key sequence for this horror genre; films of this ilk live and die on the way the transformation is depicted, and this is unfortunately a weak one.
It is no surprise Director Amelia Moses is releasing another horror title with the same lead in the same year. Her next feature Bleed With Me also concerns the need for blood, and is shockingly set in an isolated cabin, hopefully there are some lessons learned. Flashes of originality and catchy indie piano pop aside (the mournful crooning of the lead stuck in my head), Bloodthirsty does a little with very little. Its ideas and themes are frequently undone by its middling stilted conversation, dour tone, technical incompetence and ultra minimalist horror tropes.
Bloodthirsty premiered at Fantastic Fest October 1st. Visit the official site for more information.