The best kind of screener to review for any reason is one you’ve never heard of before. You have no preconceived notions about what you’re walking into, so you don’t judge it in any way before you watch it. You don’t think, “Oh, I’m not a big fan of ghost stories, so this will probably suck,” because you have no idea about the upcoming ghosts and what their stories actually are about. You watch the film raw and unknown, finding out along the way if you enjoy what you’re watching. The popularity or PR of a film has nothing to do with how much—or how little—I’ll like it. I’ve seen big name blockbusters fall flat, and I’ve also found ingenious form, style, and acting from titles I just happened to stumble upon in my travels. So when I picked Amelia Moses’ Bloodthirsty to review for the 2020 Blood In The Snow Film Festival, I was completely surprised by what I saw.
Bloodthirsty was directed by Amelia Moses (Fear Haus 2019) and stars Lauren Beatty (Pay the Ghost 2015 – read our review here), Greg Bryk (Saw 5 2008), Katharine King So (Transplant TV series), and Michael Ironside (Scanners 1981) as Dr. Swan. Produced by Wendy Hill-Tout (Little House on the Prairie TV series) and Michael Peterson (Alive 2018), the film’s score was composed by Michelle Osis (Knuckleball 2018) while the original music produced for the film was created by Lowell Boland. Hill-Tout and Boland co-wrote the script together. The sometimes gruesome special effects were created by Ashly McKessock (Necessary Evil TV series), David Trainor (Tucker & Dale vs Evil 2010), and Wynonna Earp’s Terry and Travis Shewcuck.
Grey is an indie singer who is having visions that she is a wolf. When she gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods she begins to find out who she really is.
Bloodthirsty is the story of an intense, mind- and body-altering transformation in more ways than purely supernatural. As a society, we are constantly being told how we should feel about certain things, like selfishness, conceit, and cruelty. We shouldn’t eat meat because we love animals. We should always consider another person’s feelings above our own. We should dispel any feelings or ideas that are outside of the macrocosm. For Grey (Beatty), the people in her world have taught her to give up her natural inclinations to become someone more suitable for their ideas. When she meets record producer Vaughn (Bryk), he brings out her most basic instincts. Her change from meek mouse to proud predator is a hellish ride, and one I’m not sure I want to cheer on.
I see her time at Vaughn’s house as a breakdown of her personality, much like what happens in a cult or while working with the two-fisted directors of the ’70s and early ’80s like Stanley Kubrick and William Friedkin. To get the most out of their subjects, those in charge tear away the things that made them individuals and then rebuild them into what they consider to be more superior specimens. This is what happens to Grey as Vaughn strips her of her veganism, her girlfriend, her original lyrics, her comfort, and even her mental health to inspire what he says is her creativity, her true nature.
Yes, Bloodthirsty is a horror movie. There is certain terror here. Below the fact that a woman slowly begins to realize that her original form is something supernatural hides a human hiding from her own nature. This begs the question: do we give in to our base selves when we’re being pulled in that direction? Or do we fight to change into what society believes we should?
I also want to mention the music in Bloodthirsty. Not only is there the haunting score by Michelle Osis, but there’s also the songs that Grey writes and sings as she builds her second album with Vaughn, many of which were written by Lowell Boland. Heartbreaking, emotional, and beautiful, these original pieces would fit right on on my indie playlist. I wonder if the soundtrack of the film will be released? (hint, hint)
There isn’t much gore in this film, but there was one disgusting thing that happened that I have to bring up. When Grey is looking for a snack in Vaughn’s refrigerator, she comes across a plate of red meat just sitting out there in the open. She doesn’t eat it. Oh, no… that would be too obvious. Instead, she drinks the cold, red meat blood straight from the plate. It turns my stomach just thinking about it.
What Doesn’t Work
I wouldn’t exactly call Bloodthirsty a slow burn. But I will say that the film kicks off with a tension that doesn’t really increase or decrease until the halfway point. I’m personally a fan of more of a build or of a drop in creepiness just before the main event to give the horror its full potential.
I also think the film could have been gorier. There are a few offscreen kills that result in plenty of blood, but we don’t get to see much in-your-face damage. While I did like the characterization buildup, I think it could have been intensified by some gory kill scenes. This was probably a budgetary decision, so I’m not really complaining about it. But in a perfect world, Bloodthirsty would rely a bit more on ripped flesh and steaming offal, given its animalistic nature.
Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I had no preconceived notions about this film. I had no ruler to measure it by. However, I did find Bloodthirsty to be an intense, twisted, physically- and mentally-torqued film that even non-horror lovers will understand and appreciate.