06th Mar2019

‘Painkillers’ VOD Review

by Faye Ellis

Stars: Madeline Zima, Mischa Barton, Naomi Grossman, Grant Bowler, Debra Wilson, Maria Olsen, Adam Huss, Tate Birchmore, Kim Estes, James Logan, Nicole Reddinger, Anthony Ma | Written by Giles Daoust | Directed by Roxy Shih


After an idyllic afternoon spent with his son, Dr Clarke (Adam Huss) is called to an emergency at the hospital. The two head off on their journey, and we’re treated to a Twilight zone reference which made me lose my tiny mind. Big fan. A fatal accident then occurs, resulting in his Son’s death. Upon awakening in the hospital and hearing this, he becomes enraged beyond human measure. Unable to diagnose the phenomena, Dr Clarke is left to find his own way of dealing with the pain.

Discovering that the consumption of human blood eases the eliminates his constant agony, an unexpected jump if you ask me but we’ll go with it, he embarks on a journey to find as much of the stuff as possible. He catches the attention of a man who has seen this type of thing before, and knows exactly what the doctor needs. That sounds dirtier than it is, promise, this isn’t that type of film. It seems his new friend is quite the pro, and the doctor is dragged into a seedy underworld of blood sourcing.

Whilst the premise is hard to swallow, the film itself is played straight which sort of stops you having any problem with what you’re being fed. Yes, it seems odd, and there’s really no explanation given that links grief to low key vampirism, but I was optimistically on board with it.

Painkillers initially starts off with an appearance from early 2000’s icon Mischa Barton, with a blink and you’ll miss it death in an alley, which is swift but brutal. The title sequence suggests a classy affair, with beautiful music and always pleasing red/white imagery, which it most definitely is. Cannot praise that score enough, really high quality for an off the radar film.

The cast is impressive, and has some face familiar heavy horror hitters in there, so nothing is ever cheesy in its deliverance. It was especially lovely to see ‘Grace Sheffield from The Nanny’ all grown up. The use of classical score, deep red blood effects and slow mo shots reminded me a lot of Proxy, and gave the film a very high end feel. As the film goes along, the lead performance becomes more and more complex, as we see him skilfully struggle with his conscience as the realisation of what he has become sets in. Huss’ performance in particular is fantastic, but credit should be given to all the cast.

Although it hit all the points it should, I did find my attention drifting towards the end. It had a great idea that sadly went nowhere for me. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Painkillers, I did very much, just thought the ending could have had more oomph to it. It seemed a shame that things ended with more of a whimper than a bang, but I wouldn’t say that that takes anything away from what came before it.

If you like your horror gritty, styled and polished, then Painkillers is for you.


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