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I clean up, grab a beer, go sit in the ol' rockin' chair and watch TV. You know, I haven't paid that bill in over a year. All I get is white noise. It's like ants fighting... I sit there every night watching ants fighting until I fall asleep... and in the morning I get up and do it all over again... and that's all there is. I got nothing left... but white noise.
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Composed by Léo Delibes (as Leo Delibes) (Public Domain)
Publishers: Podium Classical Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Music Box See more »
Independent horror films are usually trite and imitative, which I find hard to understand, since the very absence of movie studio execs should promote creativity. In the case of It's in the Blood, however, that creativity is present to an intriguing degree. The premise of characters isolated in the wilds is of course nothing new, nor is the tensions of a soured father and son relationship, but this film manages to do something different with these ideas, and in such a way that it's bound to divide its audience.
If you're looking for gore, thrills and madness, there is plenty of that, but It's in the Blood isn't as straightforward as all that. Horrific events years ago plagues Russell's and October's attempts at reconciliation, but it isn't all bitterness and antagonism. In fact, what sold me on the movie is the layered relationship between the two characters, the way we see that they're truly fond of one another, share a sense of humour and truly want to heal old wounds. There's also a strong sense of realism in how these two men, each a tough survivor in his own way, find it difficult to talk about their vulnerable sides. The interplay, sensitively delivered by the leads, anchors the film and makes you care about what happens to the characters, which is of course of paramount importance for a horror film to work.
There is no doubt, I think, about what happened to October, his adopted sister Iris (Sirna) and Russell years ago, when they ran afoul of lunatic Michael (Gonzales), but what is actually going on in the forest in the present day? Now that, I think, is where It's in the Blood captivates some of its viewers and loses others. It is, to put it succinctly, hard to tell.
There seems to be a very palpable monster, which at one point forcefully drags Russell along the ground, and which we get to see in unsettling glimpses. There is violence done to the characters. Both men clearly believe there's something there. But is it real, or is it October's journey of catharsis, or are "tactile hallucinations" (a term briefly seen in a book) just something that's "in the blood" of this family? We don't really find out, since the ending is ambiguous and, given what has gone before, either too simplistic or just another incarnation of family insanity. Or maybe the monster is real. We don't know. This is not a film with a high rating in most quarters, and the intentional blurriness of its storyline is most likely the reason why if you're looking for a monster movie, perhaps you don't want mysterious psychology to cloud the gut-ripping.
Personally, I think the uncertainty gives you an unexpected opportunity to think, pretentious as it may be. It's in the Blood does have that arty film school feel in some of its particulars, like the fact that post production must have been an exuberant exercise in dragging the colour grading slider all over the place: present day scenes as well as horrific ones in the past are drained of colour in that trendy noughties way, while the few happy remembrances are almost parodically bright, golden and cheery of hue. The monster does well to hide in darkness and fog, for the couple of more intimate snatches we catch of its appearance are less than convincing. So there are things to point to if you want to deride the movie, but all in all, this is an impressive debut feature with more meat than blood to it.
As I intimated above, this kind of story doesn't work without good actors. Elliot is effectively brooding as the young and troubled October, but it should come as no surprise that Henriksen steals the show. Russell is a broken, used up man who could never get past his wife's death and his drunken failure at rescuing his son and daughter when they most needed him. Still he maintains his tough guy exterior and tries to pretend that all is well. Henriksen elevates his character to a raw degree of naturalism, eliciting sympathy for a man whom it should be hard to like. I don't know what happened to Henriksen's career, but it's a shame that he is, without exception, relegated to no-budget horror movies (most of them much worse than this one) these days. When Henriksen appears, you look at him. When he speaks, you listen. That's a rare gift, and one that Hollywood producers and casting agents should treasure. That he's also one of the more brilliant actors of his generation is icing on the cake.
It's in the Blood is flawed but ambitious, and it makes for a nice change to see a low budget horror film that puts some effort into the script and characters while not forgetting the grue. I'll take pretentious over mindless any day.
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