Friday, May 11, 2018

Family Blood – review

Director: Sonny Mallhi

Release date: 2018

Contains spoilers

This kind of came out of left field. I’d seen no pre-release build up, it was released straight to Netflix and Netflix didn’t even flag it to me, it was a random stumble across, which of course makes a release worrying.

This follows the well-worn trope of the vampire representing the addicted and sets itself within an addict’s world. Whether it does that well or not we shall soon see. However, first we get…

James Ransone as Christopher
Darkness, and heavy breathing. Kristen (Carson Meyer) is hiding in a closet and the camera focuses closely to her face, the tear that falls silently. Until she steps out and into the devastated house. She calls for her mom and her brother. Eventually getting to her mom’s room. She reaches to the closet door and a voice says “Don’t”. It is Christopher (James Ransone), presumably in a relationship with her mother, she ignores him and pulls the door open.

In the closet are the dead bodies of mother and brother. He tries to explain that he really did love them, as he loves Kristen. He’d have loved to have made them like him but he couldn’t help himself and it’s too late, they’re dead. Kristen is holding a cross up to him – it doesn’t work, he confides, he wished it did. He tells her to go and she runs but at every entrance she goes to he is there, clearly moving with super human speed. Just before he kills her he takes out his dentures revealing a set of fetid fangs – I’ll come back to those later.

Vinessa Shaw as Ellie
A 12-step meeting, and whilst Eddie (Ciaran Brown) speaks the camera focuses on Ellie (Vinessa Shaw, Hocus Pocus) until it is her turn to speak. She is a recovering addict, at first she liked to drink and then moved to prescription pills (though she brings herself short as she is not meant to reveal her substance of choice). She has just moved to the area with her kids, who she lost and then regained custody of. For Ellie this is a new start but that seems daunting.

Kyle and Meegan
As things progress we see that 13-year old Amy (Eloise Lushina) wants things to work out with her mom but older brother Kyle (Colin Ford) is sceptical and that is making him act out (in the first week of school he gets in two fights, is wrongly accused of tagging a poster and sets off the fire alarm getting suspended). He falls for also rebelling, true tagger of the poster and artist Meegan (Ajiona Alexus) and the film fails by not showing us their burgeoning romance in anywhere near enough detail to give a climax moment the necessary impact. Meanwhile, at the next 12-step meeting Christopher is there and talks about his addiction causing him to rip through people (of course he means literally).

Eloise Lushina as Ellie
Eddie wasn’t at the meeting and Ellie goes to the park in which he stays. She is on a swing when he appears and offers her pills… she falls, takes the pills and gets on the swing stoned. Eddie looks to go to her (clearly up to no good) when a hand grabs him and cracks his head. Christopher goes to Ellie and, biting his wrist, feeds her his blood. He then grabs Eddie’s body, drags it off, and leaps really high with it. Ellie comes round and staggers off the swing; Christopher breaks her neck. She comes round, staggers to her car, falls – cutting her head – and drives home.

myoglobin moment
So, in the morning her head (injured at the car) is healed but she soon discovers she can’t keep food down and she yearns for something. We get all the standard bits and bobs – her buying a steak and tasting the myoglobin, attacking a cat (what is it about fledgling vampires and cats) and trying to come to terms with the changes. Christopher tries to insinuate himself into her life and is rebuffed and then quickly allowed access. The kids try to cope (or mostly Kyle, to be honest, Amy is fairly kept out of it until the finale).

a new high
However much was a bit silly or too shorthand. Having killed a person in the dark basement and the body being seen, at a distance, by Kyle, he didn’t ask what’s wrong with her, he asks why Ellie killed her. The V word is rarely used and Christopher shows confusion at what he is and then disavows that assertion when noticing Kyle researching ways to kill a vampire and disagreeing with most of the suggestions. Christopher, in a rather cool line, suggests “What first appears as a monster is only there to keep you safe”, whilst acting opposite, hitching Kyle up the wall by the throat, tossing him the length of the landing and over the banister to drop down to the ground floor. Such a fall should have 1) killed 2) paralysed 3) broken bones or 4) knocked out – or a combination thereof. Kyle miraculously survives without much damage to show for it.

fetid fangs
And the fangs. The idea that the fangs are permanent and covered with dentures… ok. But the fact they are fetid and broken… these vampires heal remarkably fast, so why not their teeth. It was a stylistic choice, probably symbolic of their addiction, but not a logical one. So how do they die – pretty much, stake through the heart – but a subsequent decapitation and cremation might not go amiss. It looks as though the invitation rule holds, until Christopher reveals he was just being polite. Garlic doesn’t work but reflections do vanish eventually.

a family at stake
If the film failed it was in developing themes to make us believe the relationships. Christopher’s insinuation into Ellie’s life is remarkably fast (though that might have been a comment on addiction). The relationship between Kyle and Meegan is so shorthand that, as mentioned, it wreaks the impact of a finale event. That event was fairly shocking anyway, in one sense, so making the effort earlier in the film would have made it powerful. All in all there are other, much better, films using vampires and looking at addiction and there are better films on the impact of a vampire on a family unit. There was a vein of nihilism in this that should have been mined for all it was worth. In the absence of that, 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

Fangfan408592 said...

I agree with you, the yellow deteriorating fang teeth made no sense and looked stupid.