Review: Blood

Directed by Brad Anderson and written by Will Honley, Jess, a separated and nurse who moves with her daughter and young son Owen back into her old farmhouse. Shortly after settling in, Owen is bitten by the dog, resulting in a mysterious infection from the bite. Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Skylar Morgan Jones, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Skeet Ulrich, Jennifer Rose Garcia and June B. Wilde.

Looking at the synopsis for Blood and thinking of how it emanates different films of the past, it’s understandable how some may be quick to pigeonhole this film, they should not. Going into any film like this with as little expectation as possible is always going to be the best plan, just sit back and enjoy it. Which is the perfect starting point to have this film be a genuinely pleasant surprise. It starts with the classic horror moment of tranquillity, it creates an even tone and moves with a great progression. It dots the path with red flags, as well as some good use of foreshadowing. You can see the history of films like The Amityville Horror, Cujo and even Little Shop of Horrors within its story but it still has enough new ground to make those feel like nods rather than suffocating itself with repetitiveness. To a certain degree any horror fan will know the typical path but it still has some unexpected moments in store.

Michelle Monaghan has built a solid career for over twenty years and has appeared in a number of beloved pieces of film and television but rarely does she get a lead role to really sink her teeth into. Blood is one of those roles, she gives a great performance which basically requires her to be emotionally and physically all over the shop. She achieves that pretty effortlessly, barring a smidge or two, and she leads this story wonderfully, especially in its latter moments which are overflowing with emotion. That’s a key factor to this film, that it finds the right balance of emotion and thrill, it doesn’t just go full force into the bloody elements, it takes the time to build its characters and their relationships. Particularly with Skylar Morgan Jones, it may not be perfect but her character has a genuine presence and manages to contribute a surprising amount to the story. While Finlay Wojtak-Hissong and Skeet Ulrich give us pretty much exactly what you’re expecting but there’s nothing wrong with that.

One of the other key elements which helps keep that balance of emotion is the score (by Matthew Rogers), it’s extremely effective in the film’s core scenes to hit the dramatic notes as hard as possible. It also does a great job of working alongside those red flags and creepy tones to enhance the fear without ever having to push too hard. Brad Anderson’s direction feels unexpectedly understated, there’s no use of harsh cuts and obscure angles, it mostly leans into the family themes of the story with the occasional injection of its thriller side. Although that’s not to say it builds an everyday feel, it does still capitalize on having that satisfyingly dark palette, bringing through some isolation and danger, and the deepening nature of the story.

Blood is a film not to be quickly dismissed, one that will likely be judged by its cover and horror fans will miss out on an indie delight. Family and horror go perfectly hand in hand and this film is yet another example, its pacing and progression are right on the money and it holds your attention perfectly throughout. It hints at where it’s going but never gives itself away completely, Michelle Monaghan and Skylar Morgan Jones lead with emotionally charged performances, moving between love, dedication and fear. It’s well shot, it doesn’t try too hard to lean on the drama or the horror, living harmoniously in the middle. Asking the age old question of how much will a parent do for their child?

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

In Theaters January 27 and Available On Demand January 31

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