THE BLOODHOUND [2020]: On Arrow Video Channel Now, Blu-ray 22nd March

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Directed by:
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Starring: , , ,

the bloodhound bluray

USA

AVAILABLE ON ARROW VIDEO CHANNEL NOW, ON BLU-RAY 22RD MARCH from ARROW VIDEO

RUNNING TIME: 72 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera

It’s been ten years since Francis and Jean Paul [aka JP] have seen each other. Then Francis receives an invitation to stay at JP’s large, secluded house and care for him. JP has recently suffered his father’s death and has fallen ill. Francis has hardly any money, so he happily accepts seeing as he’ll be paid. Once there, he finds that Vivian, another old friend and JP’s sister, is also staying at the property, but she’s not allowed to leave her bedroom. And JP is acting in a most peculiar fashion….

The great old horror stories are retold and reinterpreted over and over again. Quality of course varies. The 2008 Frankenstein [come on Benard Rose, we’re still waiting for your Dracula] achieved the difficult task of being both a very faithful and a highly radical version of Mary Shelley’s novel, and despite having a budget that was maybe a little too low, could almost be said to be the recent benchmark for these things. But on the other hand the BBC Dracula from the beginning of last year started off reasonable well but then increasingly lost the plot. The tales of Edgar Allan Poe have been redone many times, despite being inherently problematic because of their brevity, meaning that writers have to add their own material to spin them out unless we’re talking about short films or portmanteau features, and it’s worth mentioning that only a few Poe-derived films have really made a lasting impression despite the huge amount that have been made. The oddly titled [until you actually watch it] The Bloodhound is a modern-day variation of The Fall Of The House Of Usher, most famously filmed in 1959 by Roger Corman. Its main themes are isolation, madness and twisted familial dynamics, and – well – it probably goes without saying that the first is especially timely at the moment, the second probably not far off, while the third fits in nicely with one of current horror’s most prevailing ideas – that of horror in the family. So at least this new version has that going for it. But is it any good otherwise?

Well, it’s not one to watch if you’re after typical genre thrills, but if you got a fair bit out of The Lighthouse [which seemed to be enjoyed by a wider range of people than I expected] and weren’t at all bored by it being a two-hander with loads of dialogue, then you may find it quite rewarding. Its brief 72-minute running time means that it doesn’t feel the need to add lots of new characters and situations, though not a lot really happens for large chunks. This is fine though as long as you’re game for a real slow burner, because the dynamic between the two main characters has a lot of tension and the two unknown-to-me, young actors involve play their parts admirably and seem to be really getting their teeth into the roles, though the film does seem to contain the cinematic equivalent of a p**** tease, leading us on with the promise that it’s going to all boil over into a thrilling climax, but not delivering the thrill that we want. This leaves one with a feeling of disappointment, something which unfortunately threatens to overshadow the rather neat way that writer/director Patrick Picard, in his debut feature, has tweaked the Poe tale so that even those familiar with it are given a few surprises while not feeling that Ricard has gone too far away from its essence and meaning.

The sound of water in a stream is the first sound that we here, soon followed by the sight of a black-clad person whose face is concealed by – well – something [it’s hard to tell seeing as this character is always seen from a distance] emerging from a river, then coming into the house where the rest of the film will be set, entering a bedroom and going into a closet. This is delightfully odd, and the further appearances of this thing, which I suppose is the bloodhound of the title, of make us wonder as to its purpose in this story, though I got a little tired of them and they don’t really go anywhere. The symbolism is obscure until you get to the ending, and symbolism is all that it’s intended to be I guess – this demon can’t actually be existing alongside our two main characters, can it? I think that we could have done without this creepy fellow, even though he [or she] does add an unsettling dimension even if it’s not resolved in as strong enough a fashion for these eyes [it is resolved, but only in a symbolic way]. But the opening scene does do a good job of giving the viewer an idea of the main setting, and we then get an even bigger one when Francis arrives a minute later. While not at all of the Gothic type which we all associate with material like this, there’s still something very sinister about this abode with its minimalist design, its barely furnished rooms. I’m no expert on houses, but it looks to me like something built in the 1960’s, and it’s seems very soulless, perhaps the opposite of Poe’s house in a way because that place was seemingly alive. Yet it’s a potentially strong setting in its own right, and the camera of Jake Magee makes the most of this, often keeping still and keeping its distance from Francis and J. P. but creating a feeling that something can emerge from all this dark space we see at any time.

Francis finds the front door open and has to wonder about for a bit until him taking a picture [it’s hinted that he’s a professional photographer who’s hit a slump] of one of his family photographs receives the words, “I don’t like people photographing my family. I’m afraid I’m going to have to confiscate that camera. And then strangle you to death”. The voice doesn’t at all sound like its joking. The lead-up to the embrace of the two old friends is slightly off, each one saying the other’s name several times in an uncertain fashion. JP seems pretty odd immediately, and that’s not because he says that he has a short term memory problem. Put it this way, if I was Francis I’d have left his place pretty sharpish. He spins round and round, keeps stacks of cash all around the house, has a cupboard full of lady’s shoes [even though the only lady in the house doesn’t need them], reveals that he hasn’t been outside in two years [well, that may not seem that odd now], and revealing that he’s had all of Francis’s worldly possessions brought out of storage and to the house, without asking Francis. However, he does seem to be at least partly aware of the way things are. “Depression has always been the family’s evil. All the money you could need and no peace at all”. Francis suggests they go out and find a pub but JP just doesn’t like the outside world, preferring to hide from it. He doesn’t even seem to have the internet. We are probably being asked to think about the danger of constantly being connected so it becomes overload, but also if it really is possible to hide away in today’s world. The frequently drinking JP has a huge wine cellar, leading to a scene which may possibly be recalling another Poe tale The Cask Of Amontillado drinks, hard core pornographic movies he made in college, and has a sister.

Oh yes, the sister. Vivian, who it seems to be very subtly suggested once had a relationship with Francis, is in the grip of some kind of mania which requires that she be confined to her bedroom. When JP brings coffee to her, we hear an undefined argument. Seeing as JP bares cuts on his neck which look like claw or at least fingernail scratches, it seems that JP might be right when he angrily tells Francis off for going into her bedroom. Obviously something like physically attacking a pizza delivery man for being ten minutes late is totally out of order, but maybe some of his bizarre behaviour is necessary? And what about Francis? Vivian seems to appear to him at night even though it seems like she sleeps soundly. Maybe he’s losing his mind too and becoming more and more like JP? All this is told with a heavy emphasis on dialogue which is placed to the front of the sound mix while ambient scoring [curiously the IMDB doesn’t credit any composer] which gets progressively more dominant. The talk is often slightly arch, something that may irritate some, but this was clearly a stylistic choice, and there’s no doubt that Liam Aiken and Joe Adler do very well with it, adding little nuances to their characters along the way which may make rewatching this film a worthwhile experience now you the know turns that the plot will take. A homosexual element is suggested very early on when we learn that each character has been in each other’s dreams, seems to develop – and then disappears. Far be it for me to get all PC [regular readers will be familiar with my utter hatred of that], but some viewers may be left with the uncomfortable suggestion that being gay is one form of insanity, though I doubt this was intended.

Still, we build and build to something – and then we find the second of two major revelations out and the thing ends. Part of me admires Ricard for being very unconventional and offering a film which avoids conventional structure, though at times he seems to struggle a little as to how to compensate for this. The atmosphere is definitely strong, and despite the generally drab colour schemes the visuals are well composed. Sometimes something like red emitting from a bright light or the yellow of burning candles will make a welcome intrusion into the gloomy mise en scene. But the film always seem on the verge of breaking free from the mood it sets itself, the insanity of one, two or even three people continually threatening to burst out and become physical. There’s a cold stillness to the proceedings, as if we’re not quite watching human beings. Nonetheless, Picard still shows a great deal of promise with The Bloodhound, which is intriguing and clever, if a tad frustrating. He especially displays an ability to modernise Poe and play with it while remaining respectful and showing a real affinity for the great writer’s work. Hopefully he’ll adapt more Poe material.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆


SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorca
Four experimental short films by director Patrick Picard: bad dream, the muffled hammerfall in action, the mosaic code and wiggleworm
On the Trail of The Bloodhound: Behind the Scenes of a Modern Chiller exclusive 45-minute making-of featurette
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel

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About Dr Lenera 1980 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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