Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Blood Harvest – review

Director: George Clarke

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

This is an odd one and there is a twist spoiler necessary I’m afraid. A film from Northern Ireland this is absolutely a budget film (the budget coming in at approximately £10k) and though it does some fundamentals wrong it also does some things I was impressed with.

It also starts off as a serial killer movie and, I suspected, one in which the killer acted like a vampire – but it was more than that (as we’ll see when we get to the spoiler). It starts with an attack.

use of close ups
We see a girl using the bins outside a house. She is nervous and I was rather taken by the confident use of close up shots, portraits of the characters that added a nice dimension to the cinematography. The girl is being watched and as she heads into the house the watcher (Liam Rowan) smashes her head into the door. When she comes around she is tied up inside, her lips sewn together and the mask wearing killer stands above her.

fork to the eye
His mask is in a skull motif and his movements seem almost theatrical. He uses a knife to slash at her (later we discover he cuts the Achilles Tendons) and then, using a fork, he approaches her face slowly and pulls out an eye as her muffled screams fail to escape her mutilated lips. He brandishes a metallic tube and stabs downwards… Again, in this scene we don’t see it but later we discover this is thrust into the open eye socket.

Robert Render as Chandler
Detective Hatcher (Jean-Paul Van der Velde) is on the phone as he enters a building, speaking to a superior and distancing himself from a report by his partner, Jack Chandler (Robert Render). He gets to the office where Chandler is and hands the phone over. The killer has been prolific, they have been finding a body every other day. However, Jack’s report veers towards the supernatural (yes, vampires are mentioned later) and the boss isn’t happy and suspends the detective. This leads to a tirade that has him fired.

the second masked killer
Jumping to nine months later and Hatcher has a new partner, Ward (Griffin Madill), and the killings are continuing. He is consulting Jack, who is still following the case. We get some scenes of hunting/stalking and this reveals that there are two killers – the second (Alan Crawford) wears a steampunk-esq mask that looks a little like a welding mask meets a gas mask. The masks were a nice touch but the behaviours and actions of the two killers maybe not as much, as we’ll see. However, it is important to note that it is confirmed that victims are drained of blood and Jack is still labouring under the idea of vampires (we actually see him put garlic into vials of holy water at one point and so it appears he actually believes in vampires).

younger killer
As for the killers, well they seem to communicate in grunts and gurns and whilst it’s weird and all, it’s also distracting and borderline offensive (it comes across as though they are mimicking serious neurological impairment). When we discover what they actually are it makes a kind of sense but still jars. The older killer comes across as unfortunately comedic, however the younger killer manages (unmasked) to portray a malevolence within these affectations.

human juice box
So, what are they? SPOILER…

Aliens apparently, the young from a crash thirty year before. They (and their surviving elder) discovered that the nutrition they need was in the blood of humans – and the most nutritious comes from just behind the eye (due to the presence of a specific chemical there). They also discovered that fear improves the blood, hence them preventing escape by cutting the Achilles but then keeping them alive/awake as they drain the body, torturing and threatening their victim. They look human as they create a human skin as a defensive mechanism.

the first masked killer
The film relied on a massive suspension of belief (not just around the alien aspect) so that we believe that such a spate of killings (recently discovered but they must have been going on for some time) would garner less attention than these clearly have. The police interactions are not believable. However the strangeness of the film helps us pass these concerns and the use of the masks and some of the cinematography works. The acting not so much – not only the affectations of the killers but Hatcher was played poorly, I think, with a staccato delivery that also jarred.

true form
Yet this was strangely watchable as a budget flick. It bordered on torture porn in places and the gore effects were impressive given the lack of budget. Go in with low expectations and you might find yourself coming out conflicted – sure you shouldn’t have liked it but carrying a grudging respect for the film. This definitely suggests the filmmakers have building blocks they can use to make bigger and better flicks. 4 out of 10 does feel a tad too generous but less felt unfair.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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