It's in the Blood
I wasn't prepared for It's in the Blood at all. It completely blindsided me with a captivating artistic style, emotionally charged acting, and a clever premise about mental demons made flesh. I didn't know anything about the film before seeing it, except that it was a low budget indie with Lance Henriksen in it. I'll be honest; my expectations were not especially high. It looked to me like a potentially fun, b-movie creature feature. It wasn't.
The story focusses on October (Sean Elliot) and his father Russell (Lance Henriksen). The two are estranged, but October has obviously returned to his backwoods home for a long overdue visit. His father is the local sheriff and he initially seems like a typical rough, hard as nails, bitter old man. His son is withdrawn and there's an obvious lack of warmth between them.
Gradually the two get a bit more comfortable and as they embark on a trip into the forest we are let in on what the problem is. A series of flashbacks unveils a sister and daughter, Iris, now lost. At once it is clear what has come between father and son. Things get complicated further when a strange presence makes itself known and Russell has an accident that leaves the pair stranded. As they fight for survival the mystery unravels and the tragedy that drove them apart is revealed in all its hideous glory.
Their grief and fear and anger seem to take on a physical embodiment and it serves as a symbol of their struggle to get over what happened and lay Iris to rest. Can they forgive each other and themselves before it's too late?
Director Scooter Downey and actor Sean Elliot co-wrote the movie and they really put everything into it. The cinematography is really impressive. This film looks gorgeous - the lush environments, the subtle use of a nightmare creature, the fog of grief rolling in and threatening to choke them both. The direction and pacing are near perfect. The atmosphere and the rising tension are skillfully crafted. The plot gives just enough at each juncture to keep you completely, helplessly hooked.
The entire piece hangs on the relationship between Russell and October. The classically difficult father-son bond is at the heart of this movie. This is, without a doubt, the best acting performance I've ever seen from Lance Henriksen. He is astoundingly good as Russell. He shares the vast bulk of the screen time with Elliot, but Elliot's character, October, is introverted and quiet, so Henriksen is left to do most of the hard work. He turns in a very emotive display that can hardly fail to bring a tear to your eye.
While the drama is beautifully handled, don't think that means that the horror has been forgotten. The film maintains a steady stream of scares and thrills and the imagery is imaginative and genuinely frightening. It never overstretches, the CG effects are masked by fog and glimpses of the creature are deliberately brief, so there's never a moment where the spell is broken.
The central theme is also very clever and the filmmakers obviously have respect for the audience because they don't feel the need to hammer home every point. After the credits rolled and my wife stopped crying (okay, okay, I might have shed a tear too) we talked about it for ages. It's a really thought-provoking movie, hugely entertaining, and deserving of a big audience.Short Review
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