I’ve waxed on before about my love for more conventional horror projects. Because film production costs continue to fall into more affordable realms, it’s increasingly easy for anyone to put together a flick like BLOOD WIDOW and make something of it. At a glance, the film is far from perfect – the characters are all a bit too stock; the locations feel more suburbia than they do legitimate ‘out in the sticks’; etc. – but there’s something to be said when you get not one but two notable exceptions to the rule. A: the picture actually has an eerie killer. B: the picture actually has a winning victim.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Laurie and Hugh are a successful young couple who have just closed on a weekend home away from the city. Unbeknownst to them, the neighboring property contains the crumbling remains of a boarding school that was shuttered in the wake of an unspeakable massacre. The sole survivor of that massacre still resides in the ruins of the school, hiding from the world and wanting only to be left alone. When Laurie and Hugh’s friends explore the property, they have no idea that they disturbed an emotionally-broken killing machine: the blood widow.”
So very much of BLOOD WIDOW unfortunately suffers from the usual problems – an assortment of dumb and dumber characters crafted mostly for the sole purpose of being whacked to death by the superior villain. The script written by Chad Coup & Ian H. Davis hits all of the usual notes audiences have come to expect from slasher horror; that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as director Jeremiah Buckhalt showed up with intent to elevate their game to the next level. Sadly, that’s just not the case.
There’s a sublime fascination at work here in the crafting of two important roles, that of the Blood Widow and her potential victim in Laura (played by a fetching Danielle Lilley). As the killer, the Blood Widow never shows her face – she’s hidden behind one of those foo-foo French porcelain masks (a pretty nifty device) – but actress Gabrielle Henry has some wonderful body chemistry under that face and leather garb, enough to ratchet up the horror quotient with a few subtle glances here and shifts of the head there. If there’s a sequel in the offing (the ending definitely leaves it wide-open, but more of that in a bit), whoever picks up those reins will want to get her more screen time.
Also, Lilley inhabits the role of the young professional whose only wish in life is to take her relationship with her current beau to the next level. She’s captured and tortured by the Widow, and – in that respect – Lilley gives a convincing performance of pain and terror. Her final scenes with her captor are actually so convincing I found them more than a bit disturbing; she gets the stuffing knocked out of her compliments of a broken ax handle, and Lilley’s performance as the beating victim is particularly effective. Here’s hoping her talents find more work in the future.
Now … about that ending?
Therein lies BLOOD WIDOW’s greatest weakness: it just ends. There’s really no suitable wrap-up here. In fact, the story seems abruptly truncated, almost as if someone forgot to put on the last reel. Granted, slasher films never end – shall we say – happily; still, I would’ve wanted a bit more than what this script dished on those final moments. This cut as it is practically screams out for one.
BLOOD WIDOW (2014) is produced by Arcani Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled by Midnight Releasing. As for the technical specifications? Well – to be perfectly honest – the entire sound department should’ve been fired as film’s dialogue track has noticeable drops and dips in quality (some lines are not even audible); the cinematography is about on par with what one expects from a small, indie horror flick. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then you’re in store for a blooper reel; some deleted scenes (nothing all that grand); and an audio commentary track. A nice assortment.
RECOMMENDED. Once you strip away the blood stains, BLOOD WIDOWS actually has two solid strengths going for it. First – like all quality slasher-style horror should – there’s a great, creepy central killer lurking in the darkness behind a pale mask waiting to hack you to pieces with an old-style sickle. Second, actress Danielle Lilley turns in a terrific Scream-Queen quality performance as the lovely lead who’s bound to suffer some awful fate before all is said and done. Let’s hope both of these gals see a better tomorrow.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Midnight Releasing provided me with a DVD copy of BLOOD WIDOW by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.