Movie Review: It’s In The Blood (2012, Dir. Scooter Downey)

It's In the Blood

It’s In The Blood  is a movie about life hitting you over the head with tragedy. A kind of tragedy that sweeps violently into your life, claims a loved one, and then departs as quickly, leaving you psychologically crippled for the rest of your days.

You hear about these kinds of things happening all the time on the news; kids disappearing and turning up dead, nutcases shooting people in public places, husbands with restraining orders turning violent and killing their loved ones, or stalkers who rape and murder then escape via suicide. It’s an event such as this that drives the heart of this story, and one that has pretty much destroyed the two main characters, Russell and October, a father and son played respectively by Lance Henriksen and newcomer Sean Elliot.

Years after fleeing his hometown, October returns to his rural roots older, and now with an education in the art of healing, to meet up with dear old Dad again. Russell, a retired sheriff, initially comes off as emotionally detached when he insists upon putting down his beloved dog after it is injured in a bear trap, instead of allowing his son has to put his skills as a doctor to good use in giving the dog some respite. In a rather comical scene afterwards in which he teaches his son how to drive stick, Russell is more fatherly and caring than he seems, even if his alcohol problem sometimes causes him to act otherwise. He’s a likable guy, who, like his son, has seen tragedy up close and whom is still having trouble coping with it.

Since so much time has passed since October has seen his father, the two decide to take a hike in the woods to become reacquainted. Soon October again feels the urge to voice his desire to try and comprehend the event that took his stepsister, and Russell’s stepdaughter, away from them. It’s here when “accident number #2”  hits them, striking Russell first and pitching him off a cliff where he fractures his leg.

The perpetrator of this “second accident” is no mere mortal, it is something inhumanly cunning, something H.P. Lovecraft may have enjoyed writing about. Like the first “accident,” this one has no origin, it just happens. All Russell and October can do is see if they can survive it. Here’s where things get insidious; it’s hard to tell where the nature of the creature that’s stalking them ends and the crippled psyches of a traumatized man and son begin.

Throughout the movie, the death of October’s stepsister is played out in random images once the creature chooses them as its next victims. Through the ordeal, both men are plagued with nightmarish visions and dreams that have twisted their first tragedy into psychic weapons the creature can use against them. It wears them down, so to speak, making them weak and ripe for attack, like gazelles targeted for a quick death by cheetahs on the open plains.

I’ve known of this movie for a while, but hadn’t looked much into it other than peruse the photos the filmmakers had up on the film’s Facebook page. Initially I thought that it was some kind of suspense film or torture porn, judging by one shot of Lance tied to a tree and showing off his gruesomely broken leg. It wasn’t until I read a review on Dread Central that had me rethinking my original assessment. They stated that it was basically a creature feature, and anyone who routinely reads my reviews knows I’m big on monster movies. They even released a new poster for the movie clearly showing some monstrous form pursuing one of main characters.

I’d also like to state that I’m a big fan of Lance Henriksen. Before I knew what a well oiled actor he was, I saw him in Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), and his small role in The Terminator (1984). Even though I thought he was superb as the android Bishop in Aliens (1986), he didn’t really make an impression on me until I saw him as the grief-ridden Ed Harley in Pumpkinhead (1988), and then truly appreciated the power that is Lance when I saw is menacingly cool portrayal of nomad vampire, Jesse, in Near Dark (1987).

I haven’t paid much attention to his acting in his “golden years,” and the stuff I have seen wasn’t as impressive as those earlier characters, but that has all changed with It’s In The Blood. I will go on record as saying this is the best performance I have seen Lance give since Pumpkinhead and Near Dark. It’s also interesting to note that he seems to excel at playing southern characters, and his role of Russell in It’s In The Blood feels like it would perfectly fit in with the mythology of those earlier films. If you’ve never seen any of his movies, or don’t even know who he is, I recommend picking up these three flicks. Not to discount his work on Millennium, which is his best TV work, no doubt, but those three features are his best cinematic works, period.

The prologue of It’s In The Blood reminded me of another movie I had seen a few months ago, one I have also reviewed, Nailbiter, which is another above average creature feature. Both movies share similar openings: a shot of a thunderstorm, the main character in turmoil, interspersed with staccato images which show something horrible happening to that character. I like it when filmmakers know the limitations of their budgets as it pertains to using CGI in creating whatever monster they put their characters up against. Ti West’s The Roost comes to mind as a good example; he used shade and shadow to conceal his CG bats and in so doing the effect does not become a distraction and pull you out of the story. Director Scooter Downey does the same here, giving you only the barest of glimpses of the creature when it is in CGI form and at a distance, and using an animatronic effect/man-in-a-suit for close-ups when it’s attacking Russell and October.

And what does this “creature” look like? In the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft its full natural form is indescribable. It’s stick-like when it blends in with the woods, and I don’t mean in a Predator kind of way. If that effect had been used it would’ve been strike one, two and three for this movie. It blends in  by simply re-orienting its body. As it is hairless, it can easily come off as a bunch of sticks or twisted limbs. It has a lethal set of nails and has a head that reminded me of the cranial shape of Marvel’s villain, Venom. The creature has no visible eyes and a strange skin texture that made me think of the horrors, Clive Barker might create. It’s also jet-black.

The screener I got was in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio; another thumbs up for the filmmakers. I prefer that ratio to all others; it makes any film look cinematic. It hasn’t been released yet on DVD, but is available on VOD, so seek this one out. It’s a must see.

 

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