Bloodline [Fantastic Fest 2018]

The way Fantastic Fest was set up, there would be four or five movies screening at a time in time slots throughout the day, and we would submit ranked preferences for each time slot, which would determine for what films we would tickets. This led to much consternation for me, as a couple of time slots had multiple movies I really wanted to see, and a couple of others had nothing that particularly grabbed me.

It was in one of these latter time slots that I ended up deciding to see Henry Jacobson’s directorial debut, Bloodline. It was not a bad movie, but it had the misfortune of being an above-average movie in a room full of great movies. In another setting, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more, but as it was, I came away a little disappointed.

Previously a cinematographer and producer, Jacobson brought a skilled eye for camerawork to this production, and it shows. The movie is shot beautifully, using light and shadow in its largely interior sets particularly well. The numerous kills are shot with a serious slasher fan’s devotion – slashed throats and gunshot wounds spray and splatter in deep, rich reds, with the camera following crimson rivulets as they run down walls and drains.

The camera also lingers in some odd cases as well – on a prolonged full-frontal nude shower by a minor character that is played out on screen not once, but twice during the movie, as well as on a particularly graphic and…unflinching birth scene. Both scenes held an uncomfortably voyeuristic quality that was at odds with the rest of the film – they felt sleazy in a movie where that tone was otherwise completely absent, and the dissonance that created was jarring.

The plot of the movie was relatively straight-forward: Seann William Scott’s Evan is a serial killer, murdering the deadbeat dads of the students he counsels at a local high school while struggling with the stress of a new baby son, his wife’s suspicions and his overbearing mother’s presence in his home. As pressure mounts, fault lines are revealed, and the risk increases for him as he tries to satiate his homicidal urges under more and more scrutiny. The story feels familiar, sufficient that I was able to guess both of the movie’s big twists well in advance. It wasn’t bad – just predictable.

The acting was all fine as well – Scott’s Evan is a suitably superficial charmer with a dead-eyed stare and a sensation of barely-restrained rage beneath the surface. Although I will say that as someone who was a teenager in the 90s, it is really weird to see Stifler as a homicidal maniac. Stifler, what happened to you, man?

stiflerafter

Seann William Scott, going from “Stifler, Returning Grad” to “Stifler, Murder-Dad”.

Mariela Garriga does a subtle turn as Evan’s wife Lauren, as her initial seeming fragility eventually reveals a much sturdier core beneath. Lastly, Dale Dickey is grand as Evan’s controlling mother, Marie – her portrayal comes more and more into focus as the movie goes on, and it reveals some very clever layers when you begin to consider her in relation to her son. Ah, but I’ve said too much already.

Because it didn’t really do anything new, but did what it did beautifully and gruesomely, this movie deserves some accolades. Standing on its own, it’s definitely worth a watch from the comfort of your couch, if not a full-price movie ticket.

Score: Three out of Five Stars

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