[Review] Blood Craft
This review and movie comes with a litany of trigger warnings to include pedophilia, forced incest and other unpleasantness. And not to cheekily add to the real trigger warnings, it also comes with bad acting and melodrama. You’ve been warned.
A bleak cold open focuses on an incendiary preacher (Dave Sheridan), proselytizing on a bunch of sins, to include adultery, homosexuality, effeminacy and anything that might be deemed fun. His very small congregation eats it up. Coffers are passed and, we see, stolen from by the preacher, who buries the money in a small box under a tree.
Twenty five years later and a woman named Grace (Madeleine Wade) wakes up, pops some pills and goes to her job as an erotic dancer at an S&M-themed strip club. “No touching,” the sign reads as gross men give her instructions. It’s filmed in bright red lights; a reference to the hellish nightmare she finds herself in. Taking orders from greasy men.
She receives a letter from a county clerk named Tyler (Michael Welch), who informs her that her father has passed and that as the next of kin, she needs to settle some estate issues. So she goes back to her hometown and her father’s house that seems openly antagonistic towards her. A loose nail takes a chunk out of her ankle as she crosses the threshold and after bandaging it, finds her estranged sister Serena (Augie Duke doing her best Fairuza Balk impression).
The two sisters have some deep-seated abandonment issues. Their abusive father manipulated both them of them into thinking the other had run away, when they were younger. But before they can reconnect, Tyler, the county clerk, shows up unexpectedly and Grace has an uncomfortable conversation with him that turns aggressive (complete with flashbacks of when they were younger and he tried to nonconsensually kiss her).
Turns out their vaguely Eastern European-sounding mother was a witch or had access to spells and later that night, while reconnecting over the horrors their father foisted on them, decide to bring him back to life (he’s conveniently buried in the backyard) and get their revenge/piece of their mind. And through a complicated ritual that puts their father’s soul into a doll and necessitating them find another body to put it in, things start to unravel.
Okay. So like I mentioned in the beginning, this one is a doozy in terms of all sorts of kinder-trauma. The third act turns into what is colloquially called torture porn that involves belts and knives and mutilation. It’s an unpleasant, ugly little film filled to the brim with pretty much every trigger warning I could write down. It’s dark, unsettling material. And not something I even vaguely enjoyed watching.
And unfortunately, for such dark material, it’s not carried very well by the leading actress, who also co-wrote the script with director James Cullen Bressack, based on a story she developed. Her portrayal skirts the thin line between painful and melodrama. The score by Chris Ridenhour, who’s contributed scores to a lot of The Asylum movies, actually was pretty good. It evokes a Gothic flair, with choirs and bombastic sounds at specific moments, but hums nicely in the background through most of the film.
Blood Craft is also nicely shot and uses light and darkness to great effect in what is basically a one-location movie. I love the framing of some shots; hands gripping a knife, barely illuminated. Faces given a slight glow from a small candle. Dark rooms with blueish light seeping in from behind curtains. It looks gorgeous, even when the subject matter and acting isn’t.
Unfortunately, the script throws every single bad Lifetime movie cliche into the story and I truly hope it’s not based on some real life trauma. It does feel like it’s trying to exorcise some past, personal demons and I sincerely hope that’s not true because the stuff that happens here is not pleasant. A late game twist is telegraphed from the beginning of the film and doesn’t really add anything to the story.
The idea of an emotionally traumatized woman reclaiming her own identity and agency might be cathartic to some viewers, but I dunno, reader. This just wasn’t my cup of tea.