Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's in the Blood and Finding Common Ground: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Greenhouse Studios.

Director: Scooter Downey.

Writers: Scooter Downey, and Sean Elliot.

Cast: Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Rose Sirna and Jimmy Gonzales.

It's in the Blood is a small indie production centrally starring Lance Henriksen and Sean Elliot. Elliot also performed writing duties on this thriller. But, can this film be classified into one genre? There are elements of horror with creatures and ghosts appearing within foggy environments. There are dramatic elements as well as a father and a son try to bond after a tragic event. This is also a psychological journey. Characters October (Elliot) and Russell (Henriksen) are externalizing some of their angst in this hiking trip gone wrong. It's in the Blood is a blend of genres, but essentially this title is a psychological drama.

The story does begin simply with a trip out into the woods. Events get complex quickly when the father breaks his leg after falling from a height. Both father and son are then trapped in a small copse of trees by a strange force. Flashbacks begin to tell another tragic tale. That second tale will be kept in mystery to retain some of the film's suspense.

A question does pop up during a watching of this film. What genre is this film? Writers Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot blend elements of horror, thrillers, drama and psychological aspects into a fairly short eighty-seven minute film. A bloody leg and subsequent sawing will add gore for horror fans. As well, an eyeless creature looms in white fog. There are a few gripping scenes in the film for horror fans to enjoy. Thriller fans might enjoy the tension between the son and the creature. There are several traps and countermeasures set up, many of which fail. This film fan would call this title a psychological drama. This is a film whose central premise revolves around the relationship between October and his father. They are trying to heal a past wound by going on a hiking trip. It seems that memories of this previous devastating event are being externalized in the woods around them. The appearance of demons and ghosts is symbolic of an underlining issue. However viewers approach the film, filmmakers Downey, Elliot and others have successfully blended several genres in this fantastic outing.

Acting is one element that holds the film together. The relationship between October and Russell is contentious. Both characters see the world and previous events in different ways. Thus, Henriksen and Downey have to allude to this tension in their performances. Henriksen is such a force that Downey seems hard-pressed to react adequately. However, these two actors create a believable familial relationship. And, one actor has to show a gamut of emotions including: hatred, grief, shock, fear courage and many others. He does well despite the complexity of his character. From central characters to minors, casting choices are made competently.

Other aspects of the film such as music, settings and directing techniques amplify the action rather than hampering it. The soundtrack is more prominent in the final half of the film, unfortunately. Musical notes are often sombre to match the sometimes melancholy mood of the movie. Settings are limited in number. The farmhouse, backwoods and shed are each appropriate for the scenes being shown within these environments. In addition, Downey's directing techniques draw the viewer into the events and the camera will keep you right in the middle of the action. Watchers will simply feel like a third party to what they are seeing onscreen. This style of shooting relies on close-ups and medium shots to keep the characters centrally in frame. All of these film elements are expertly produced.

It's in the Blood will release through a video-on-demand release October 26th and there is a lot to recommend here. The small story is evocative. The cast is excellent. Music is appropriate and the shooting style keeps events interesting. Combining all of these elements with a psychological drama creates for a very effective film. It would be good to see more films covering father and son relationships, which is a pairing that is more complex than some would believe.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (really enjoyed this one, good story, excellent denouement, great characters, a powerful film).

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