05th Jan2015

‘Strange Blood’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Robert Brettenaugh, Alexandra Bard, James Adam Lim | Written by Pearry Teo, Chad Michael Ward | Directed by Chad Michael Ward

strange-blood-cast

Chad Michael Ward, the man behind the internationally acclaimed and controversial photo projects such as The Sick Series and The Pain Box as well as director of music videos for artists like Static-X and Marilyn Manson, turns his hand to his first feature – with help from cohort and the other half of TeoWard Productions (hence the name) Pearry Teo – the disturbing psycho-sexual medical horror Strange Blood.

It’s not often a film maker comes straight out of the gate with a debut feature that at once harkens back to a bygone era and pushes the genre forward at the same time. Yet Chad Michael Ward’s Strange Blood does just that… The film sees a brilliant but obsessive scientist, Henry, (Brettenaugh) go to extremes to develop a universal cure for all disease, who finds himself infected with a bizarre parasite that begins to transform him into a bloodthirsty madman. Time running out, and with the aid of his med student assistant (Bard), he must find a way to stop the monster that is growing within and prevent the rest of the world from being “cured.”

Very much a flashback to the early works of David Cronenberg and his terrifying mix of medical and body horror, Strange Blood is a slice of sick, twisted genius; it’s unpleasant, it’s repulsive, it’s grotesque, and it’s fantastically brilliant! It’s interesting to note that back when I was first introduced to Pearry Teo’s Necromentia I wrote that it out-did Clive Barker’s Hellraiser in terms of freakish, nightmarish imagery – well it looks like Ward has taken a leaf out of Teo’s playbook and helmed a movie that would make Cronenberg jealous.

Much like Rabid was a new take on the zombie genre (Cronenberg’s monsters borne out of infection rather than being the living dead) which was so popular at the time thanks to Romero’s Night/Dawn of the Dead, Strange Blood is a wholly different take on stereotypical genre tropes – in this case it’s the vampire: a horror “character” that has, thanks to dross like Twilight, been reduced to little more than a big-toothed romantic hero, rather than the terrifying blood-sucking creature of the night originally envisioned by author Bram Stoker and brought to prominence by the UK’s very own Hammer studios in the 1950s.

However Ward’s film differs from traditional vampire movies in that his particular story deals with the transformation from man to vampire – the struggles of a man who is losing his humanity, being over taken by the blood lust that we all associate with this iconic movie monster. It’s an interesting dichotomy, as we see Henry go through the proverbial emotional wringer as he tries to reconcile his predicament on a emotional level, all the while having to satiate the hunger for blood, which in turn only amplifies the emotional aspects of transforming into a vampire – after all, how would any of us deal with having to kill to feed? It’s even harder on Brettenaugh’s character as his original goal was to help mankind through his new scientific discovery, not harm it! Thankfully Henry doesn’t have to go it alone and has some help from his assistant (Alexandra Bard)… and between the two of them, this emotional, complex, heart-wrenching story unfolds.

For that is what this film essentially is. A two-character tale that, in all honesty, is so well written, so well acted (Brettenaugh and Bard both give stunning performances) and so tightly paced that it would work as well on the stage as it does on the screen.

If I may rant for a moment… There’s a reason I focus this site on the oft-overlooked by the mainstream, straight to DVD/Blu-ray, fare: films just like this. Films that float under the radar of all but the most dedicated of horror fans; films that outshine the big-budget, big-name, so-called “independent” movies that flood the multiplexes and art house cinemas; films that make you realise just how good genre movies can be, when all around are touting the end of horror cinema thanks to a lack of originality… Good, nay GREAT, horror movies are out there, and originality is out there – as evidenced by Strange Blood.

A  film that echoes the early works of David Cronenberg in the best way possible, Strange Blood is scheduled for a US release in April 2015.

***** 5/5

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