Welcome back Adam Mason, the director of the rather clever Broken and the highly impressive Devil’s Chair. With Blood River Mason takes a unique approach to horror that is at times fascinating and for the most part, quite rewarding. Playing like the Hitcher meets Saw, Blood River offers up some satisfying violence, but for the most part takes its time in creating an atmosphere fuelled by hypnotic religious undertones and fear. Summer and Clark are heading across the Nevada Desert and seem to be the perfect, loving couple. A strange man is walking in the road and Clark beeps him as they drive past. They stop at the next motel and enjoy a relaxing night together, however the stranger, called Joseph and known as the Cowboy, has also got himself a room. We soon find out he’s not a nice man as he brutally forces the motel receptionist to commit suicide. Played with expert coldness by Andrew Howard, Joseph is one of the most intriguing bad guys I have seen in some time.
Clark and Summer head off the next morning, only to have a mysterious blow out, forcing them off the road and into a dangerous descent into danger. Summer is pregnant, but they decide to walk to the nearest town. Being the Nevada desert, this is quite a walk, and the nearest town they find seems to be deserted. It is not, and eventually, The Cowboy turns up all friendly and helpful and offers them shelter and some assistance the next morning in finding help. He seems nice enough, but the way he looks and talks at times unsettles Clark. He has his doubts, and with good reason. Tensions build as Joseph the Cowboy checks the health of Summer’s baby by running his hands over her belly and acting a bit strange. Does this guy have healing powers, or is he just not quite right in the head?
The film plays out mostly in daylight, with just their first night as a threesome in the shadows. Things feel uneasy instantly, and Mason directs with a skill and attention to detail that shows he has really started to mature. Somehow, Mason creates moods and atmospheres out of hardly anything, and the tension mounts and mounts. The Cowboy clearly has an agenda, a want for some sort of punishment, but what for? Does the Cowboy really have some sort of supernatural powers, or is he just a religious nut who believes he has a higher power? Questions you may or may not find answers to, but one’s thing’s for sure, things do get intense and quite scary in places. The Cowboy is one of the best horror creations to come along in quite some time, and I suppose it’s his sincerity that makes him so unsettling. He comes across with good intentions, but you can just tell there is a darker, more meaningful plan.
The couple’s relationship is tested to the limits, and we even get some horrific scenes of torture, but what really amazed me about this film was its style. The film is often breathtaking to look at, and haunting in its score. Mason has produced something quite special indeed in terms of overall effect. At times the acting is a bit questionable, and the supposedly vicious blow of an ending doesn’t quite hit the mark, but you cannot take away from Mason his heart and his guts to bring something new to the horror genre. Here we have a relatively slow film with barely any action or violence, and plenty of long speeches and beautiful beautiful imagery. If you like your horrors to hypnotise you and carry you into a dreamlike state that stays in your head long after the credits, then this is for you. It’s bordering on greatness, but Mason just has not quite got the skills to get there. However, on this effort, it’s clear he is a director to really keep an eye on. Blood River has been hanging around in my head for a few days now, and it’s all thanks to an impressive script, absolutely stunning scenery and visions and one of the finest scores I have heard in years. I cannot praise the music in this film enough; it is quite brilliant, genius in places. It builds to an incredible level of intensity and works so well. It’s haunting, dark and relentless at times. The music, matched by the simply breathtaking imagery really creates a fantastic mood. It’s just so good to look at, and so good to listen to it is almost like a beautiful dream from the darkest corners of your mind.
There are moments of real greatness here, and Mason should be proud of what he’s achieved. This is a film to get you thinking, and to quite literally suffocate your senses. It has its flaws, but it has an interesting story with a powerful threat and a well intended twist. If you have the patience, you might just love this