01st Sep2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Bloodthirsty’ Review

by Jim Morazzini

Stars: Lauren Beatty, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So, Michael Ironside, Judith Buchan | Written by Wendy Hill-Tout, Lowell | Directed by Amelia Moses

We reviewed Amelia Moses’ Bleed With Me at Fantasia last year. And now her latest feature, Bloodthirsty, co-written by Wendy Hill-Tout and her daughter Lowell, is screening at Frightfest after a successful US festival run. Her first film was a take on vampirism, the second takes on lycanthropy. Can she go two for two in updating classic monsters?

Grey (Lauren Beatty; Jigsaw, Pay the Ghost) is a singer with a hit debut album. She also has writer’s block and nightmares about becoming a wolf. Dr. Swan (Michael Ironside; The Convent, Knuckleball) gives her pills but they aren’t helping. She might have a cure for her writing issues though. Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk; Shoot ‘em Up, Parallel Minds) a reclusive producer whose career is equal parts successful and controversial has offered his services. Grey and her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So; Transplant) take up residence at his isolated studio. The only other person around is Vera (Judith Buchan; I Dream of Murder) the obligatory creepy housekeeper.

Bloodthirsty sets itself up very conventionally. It feels like a music business drama for much of the first part of the film. That’s most likely due to Lowell being a singer, (she has tracks on the soundtracks of Nerve and Boo 2! A Madea Halloween among others films), and able to draw on her experiences. She also wrote the songs that Beatty sings in the film.

It’s once Vaughn begins trying to get Grey to stop taking her medication and bring out her “true nature” that things start to get strange. This doesn’t sit well with Charlie as it seems to build a connection between the two of them that threatens her relationship. Vaughn even gets the formerly vegan Grey to eat meat.

It’s fairly obvious where Bloodthirsty is going. A lead named Grey, dreams of being a wolf, eating meat after shunning it since age six. The question is, what is Vaughn’s part in this? Is he the sexual predator he at first seems? Or is he a predator of an entirely different kind?

Interestingly, the film Bloodthirsty most frequently resembles isn’t another werewolf film. Although it does involve a young woman developing a taste for a certain variety of meat. If you’ve seen Julia Ducournau’s film Raw several of this film’s themes and scenes will feel familiar.

Bloodthirsty, despite its name, lacks that film’s graphic gore. It’s also, most likely for budgetary reasons, light on transformation scenes. Or werewolf scenes in general for that matter.  Unfortunately, we could have used a bit more of it in Bloodthirsty, because the script isn’t quite tight enough to work as a psychological horror film. It spreads itself a bit too thin trying to cover relationship issues, LGBTQ issues, the nature of creating art and power dynamics in the recording industry. It’s hard to find time for all that and still be scary.

It also doesn’t help that the plot twist that kicks off the last act is almost cringingly contrived and cliched. The moment Vaughn started the reveal I was going “Oh hell no, they’re not going there”. But, of course, they did. Thankfully it turns out to be largely irrelevant, so it doesn’t ruin the film’s climax.

In the end, Bloodthirsty just doesn’t measure up to Moses’s previous film. The elements are there, they just never come together. It has its moments, but the script needed more focus and the horror needed more bite.

***½  3.5/5

Bloodthirsty screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest. The film is also out now on DVD from Signature Entertainment.

Review originally posted on Voices From the Balcony.

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