BITS 2020: Bloodthirsty (2020)

Bloodthirsty (2020)

Director: Amelia Moses

Cast: Lauren Beatty, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So, Michael Ironside, Judith Buchan

Grey is an indie singer who is having visions that she is a wolf. When she gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods she begins to find out who she really is. – IMDB

After her psychological thriller team-up Bleed With Me, Amelia Moses’s second film at Blood in the Snow Festival is a psychological slow-burn werewolf film, Bloodthirsty. Feeling a bit like the psychological journey of Raw at the beginning with the main character Grey having these dream sequences of eating animals and going with her girlfriend tagging along to a music producer’s remote studio to create her album, it turns into a journey of self-discovery that unleashes another side of her. Without knowing anything about the film, Bloodthirsty feels like a lot of different horror movies and its the unknown the truly gives the first half a slow-burn but intriguing psychological trip. Both Grey and the music producer Vaughn have a mysterious dark edge. Vaughn seems to be hiding something about his past which comes to light as a final twist at the end.

Its always great to see more directors exploring a werewolf premise. Recent years has seen more of this films show up taking different tones. Bloodthirsty is a more serious story about a girl embracing her true nature but at the same time, struggling to let go of her current things. As she unleashes the beast inside, the main question is what are the consequences. Bloodthirsty grabs the right tone and atmosphere. As its characters are music-oriented, the soundtrack is also distinguishes the gradual changes in Grey’s character from the change in her music and the lyrics. Its a great angle and one of the strengths of this movie. Paired up with the remote setting of the house in the woods, they all come into play to give it an ominous feeling.

Looking at the characters, its a small cast that basically floats between the growing connection between Grey, played by Lauren Beatty (also in Bleed With Me which also questions whether the two stories have some sort of connection as both characters revolve around blood) and Vaughn (Greg Bryk). Vaughn becomes something of a mentor who helps Grey find her musical inspirations and make more music but at the same time, he pushes her into a certain direction to follow her desires and temptations starting from little things like eating meat (a big step for her vegan character). There’s a dark side to Vaughn which sometimes plays a little too heavy which destroys a bit of the subtlety of developing Grey’s character which takes a little more time. Perhaps its that push and pull that gives the pacing a little imbalance. Plus, these two dominant characters also render the two supporting characters of Grey’s girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) and Vaughn’s housekeeper Vera (Judith Buchan) feel a little insignificant except for two scenes respectively that help give the story a push.

Bloodthirsty is a decent horror film. Extra points for taking on the werewolf premise. It has a great setting as well as a good story premise. Lauren Beatty does a decent performance as Grey and same goes for Greg Bryk. Their characters build to the finale. The twist is fairly good although the ending is a little questionable (not exactly to my liking). Its really the imbalanced pacing and some execution choices that leaves me a little less enthused. However, the soundtrack sets the tone really well and a great angle. Plus, Michael Ironside has a cameo/supporting role which is always great to see. Overall, Bloodthirsty is a decent werewolf film but its definitely much more than that as it tackles more of a subtle psychological angle which I do appreciate.

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?