Monday, May 26, 2014

Blood Widow Spins a Deadly Web: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by Phase 4 films.

Director: Jeremiah Buckhalt.

Writers: Chad Coup and Ian H. Davis.

Cast: Danielle Lilley, Brandon Kyle Peters, Christopher de Padua and Jose Miguel Vasquez.

Blood Widow is an indie slasher film, from first time director Jeremiah Buckhalt and distributor Midnight Releasing. The film's villain is based on Buckhalt's sketches and storyboards. And, Buckhalt's villain, the Blood Widow, is truly a vicious killer. Unfortunately, this character and others only get surface treatment, in the story department. Also, this horror feature hosts some ADR and weak acting and interactions. Still, there are positives here: a moody tone, interesting lighting and blood effects. Blood Widow is an above average slasher and the visual display here will keep most horror fans interested.

The story is a little on the sparse side. But, Laurie (Danielle Lilley) and Hugh (Brandon Kyle Peters), a young couple, have just bought a home. Their new location is fairly isolated (standard horror cliche) and there is no cell phone service (another cliche). Hugh has invited several friends over to their new home, for a house warming party. There is an uninvited guest, lurking at a neighbour's house. This non-invitee makes her presence known by slashing and hacking through the partiers. No one escapes the machete, sickle, flail or a host of other weapons.

Blood Widow hosts a few exceptional film elements. Director Buckhalt captures several night scenes very well. After all, what is a horror film without some great night shooting? All of the characters are easily seen, but the darkness adds a spooky or moody element to the film. As well, a chase sequence inside a crawlspace is well filmed. Lighting comes in through slats in floorboards. There is enough lighting here to see events, but there is enough darkness to keep the killer's action slightly hidden. Lighting is one of the film's stronger elements. Also, it is rare to see a female killer in a slasher film. The Blood Widow relies a little more on stealth and cunning to make her kills, compared to male antagonists. The costume for this killer is also effective in creating mystery. This type of killer is atypical in the horror genre.

Still, there are a lot of missteps in this title. The automatic dialog replacement is fairly obvious in a few early scenes. These scenes look amateurish and the poor dubbing broke the reality of the film, for this watcher. In addition, the acting from mostly newcomers is average to bad. Only actors Danielle Lilley and Jose Miguel Vasquez have multiple credits to their name. Still, Lilley and the others deliver lines in a stiff manner. Interactions between the character's suffer and they often appear awkward. Also, the characters are mostly flat. No one including, the antagonist, is given much of a backstory. Some of the characters are not even named, until late in the picture. So, viewers will be forgiven if they are unable to connect with any of the characters; they are mostly one-dimensional. These missteps and a few others take some of the enjoyment away from the film.

Overall, Blood Widow is a straightforward slasher film; though, action elements help keep the film focused. There are no real surprises hidden in the film. Most of the writing follows a slasher formula, including: a masked killer, partiers dying and lots of hack and slash. It is really amazing how closely writers Chad Coup and Ian H. Davis follow the stereotypes of the past. Sometimes, it is alright to step out of the mold and add something new to the genre, rather than simply repeating it. However, Acts II and III offer enough frenetic action to keep the viewing interesting. Some characters, like Kenneth (Christopher de Padua), stumble through holes in an old floorboard and the results are drastic. The Blood Widow, played by Gabrielle Ann Henry, moves with intensity late in the picture. Blood effects are presented sporadically through the film, but most frequently in the end. These action sequences keep events compelling, at least visually.

Blood Widow will move to DVD formats June 3rd, through Midnight Releasing and most indie horror fans will find something to enjoy here. If your expectations are realistic, then Blood Widow will bring a few interesting scenes to bear. The filmmakers work here suffers from a few less than compelling film elements, but this is an early film for the crew and it is obvious that a lot of hard work went into this title. Blood Widow promises a sequel and this viewer was intrigued enough to want more of this masked killer.

Overall: 6.5 (a few instances of dubbing, one setting does not look like a boarding school at all, conflicts are weak through Act I, some good action sequences, a suitable moody tone).

A homepage for the film is here:

Blood Widow's Homepage

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