blood | brad anderson | will honley | michelle monaghan | skeet ulrich | finlay wojtak-hissong | thriller | vampire | vampires | united states | june b. wilde | skylar morgan jones | danika frederick | jennifer rose garcia | sarah constible | onalee ames | curse
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Will Honley
Starring: Michelle Monaghan, Skeet Ulrich and Finlay Wojtak-Hissong
Now this is a movie that I heard about originally from other podcasts. It went on a list of ones to check out when I had time and before doing my end of year list. What pulled me here was Michelle Monaghan starring. She’s an actress that I don’t see in a lot, but she doesn’t turn in bad performances from what I’d seen. From the title, I made a guess as to what we would get here, which was vampires. I’ve also now given this a rewatch to see where a second view would leave me for my end of year list.
Synopsis: Jess (Monaghan), a separated mother and nurse, moves with her daughter and young son back into her old farmhouse. Shortly after setting in, Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) is bitten by their dog, resulting in a mysterious infection from the bite.
We start this as Jess is unloading boxes with her daughter, Tyler (Skylar Morgan Jones). Her son, Owen, should be helping, but he’s off with the family dog named Pippen. What I picked up here is that Jess expects more from Tyler and it manifests by being harder on her. Tyler goes out to see Owen on the lower roof of a barn. He wants her to dare him to jump. Tyler tries to dissuade him, but he does it anyway. This gets him and Tyler scolded by their mother. I thought that was a great way to introduce them.
There is an added element here why Jess is as concerned as she is. She has a history of drug use. This is an element of her ongoing divorce from Patrick (Skeet Ulrich). There is a custody battle and the husband is the safer choice. Jess being the mother working in her favor. Patrick cheated with the nanny, Shelly (Danika Frederick), who is now carrying his child. They also live in the house that Patrick and Jess shared. The latter is doing what she can to hold it together, but we see that she doesn’t know as much about her children as Patrick does.
One day, Owen and Tyler head out to a lake on the property to go fishing. It has dried up though. There is a strange tree that Pippen runs toward. The mud is thick and the dog along with Owen get stuck. Tyler sets them free and they head back. This causes them both to get scolded again upon arriving home. During dinner, Owen thinks he sees something in the woods. Jess goes to check and Pippen gets free. This upsets the boy to no end and he wants to go searching. A fight breaks out between him and his mother. The boy is relentless, not concerned about what could happen to all involved.
That is when something does. Pippen returns, but he’s different. He attacks the boy viciously, landing him in the hospital. The doctors don’t know what is wrong and it looks bleak. Things do look up when Jess catches Owen drinking from his IV bag holding a blood transfusion. This mother will need to make a difficult decision as to what to do and to what lengths she will go for her son as it seems drinking blood is the only thing that helps him. He further changes to be less the boy that she knew and more into a monster.
I think that is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. This gives a slight spoiler, but this also takes you to the end of the first act. Where I’ll then start is that I was a bit a leery about watching this despite what I said in my opening bit. My assumption was that this was a take on vampirism. That is a way to look at this. It is a subgenre that has been done in different variations. What ended up making this work for me though, this might not be that creature, at least in the traditional sense.
Now I know that comes off as confusing. Vampires drink blood and Blood is the title. There is an interesting line early in the movie when Owen and Tyler are going to the lake. She brings up a story that the boy doesn’t remember. She says he was too young and it was told to them by their aunt who lived in this house. She said that there was a group of cannibals living in this area that would fly into town for victims. Now I do think Owen is coming a cannibal? Well not necessarily. A test shows it isn’t rabies. If it was, that could explain wanting blood. This is a take on vampirism, we are just seeing a more feral version.
There is another element here that hit me harder though. I’m a new parent. Movies where we see a parent being faced with a horrible decision with their children hit me harder. I like the fact that in this set up Jess had issues before the events of what we see started. Patrick is using them against her to get custody of the children. I see both sides. It pains me to see that Jess looks to be back on her feet. I also don’t want to discredit what he did. He also cheated on her. That seemed to be a byproduct of her being gone and he needed someone to comfort him. Doesn’t make it right though. Now with the pressure of losing her children and coupling that with needing to make horrific decisions to keep Owen alive. It made me think what I would do there. I don’t truly know unless I was faced with it. I’d bet that I would be closer to Jess than I want to admit. I did like this added element here.
Another bit that I wanted to add would be it is interesting to have Jess being a recovering addict and then have Owen get sick like he does. We’ve seen before comparing vampirism to addiction. It isn’t new. What is to explore what a parent would do if their child became addicted to drugs. There is an element that she understand more than most. She is also being an enabler to his condition, thinking that she can help him more than the hospital. There is that grey area again of going above the legal idea of what you can and should do. I did find this interesting and noticed this more the second time around.
The acting here is needed to make this work. Monaghan does a great job at this mother who is trying to do everything she can to keep her life together. She also wants to be with her children. As a single parent, we see how difficult that can be. I also don’t mind Ulrich as her ex-husband. Both seem like good parents who made bad decisions. I love both characters being shades of grey. Wojtak-Hissong worked as this boy who is sickly. This means that he’s a bit selfish and gets amplified by his condition. The better performance is Jones though. She so badly wants her mother’s approval and no matter what, she doesn’t seem to get it. I felt that on a deeper level. There’s also another character, Helen (June B. Wilde), that I haven’t brought up, Jess meets her at work. She does what she can to soothe her in dire times. This changes though when Jess sees a chance to help Owen. It becomes horrific. Other than that, I’d say Frederick and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
All that is left then is the filmmaking. I’d say that this is well-made. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects except from seeing blood. There is a good amount of it too. What works there is that we see it in a controlled way. It is in bags to help with IVs or in bottles. I thought that was a good idea to contain it. The color and consistency looked good which helped with realism. The cinematography was good. An unsung part there is the long shots where something could be lurking in the shadows, just out of sight. We also don’t get confirmation and it is left up to us. We know something causes this change; we just don’t necessarily know what. That gives me a feeling of foreboding. I like what they do with Pippen and Owen’s eyes as the infection takes hold. There are also quick glimpses of Owen’s face the longer he is dealing with the condition and the more blood he drinks. Other than that, the soundtrack fit what was needed.
In conclusion, this is a solid film. We get a topic that we’ve seen before and ground it. There are real world problems and grey characters that try to deal with them. That is something I can appreciate quite a bit here. The acting helps to bring this to life. Monaghan and Jones are the two stars. I’d also say that Ulrich and of course, Wojtak-Hissong, push everything to where it ends up. This is well-made with the effects being the bright spot as was the cinematography. Doesn’t necessarily stand too far out, but I enjoyed my time with this one. I’d recommend giving it a watch. This is one that I appreciate the variation on the familiar concepts, even though my score doesn’t necessarily reflect it.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10