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BLOOD CONSCIOUS (2021) review

August 21, 2021

 

written by: Timothy Covell
produced by: Christina Behnke
directed by: Timothy Covell
rated: not rated
runtime: 81 min.
U.S. release date: August 20, 2021 thru September 2, 2021 (streaming at Facets Cinemathaque)

 

In “Blood Conscious”, writer/director Timothy Covell, aims to enthrall viewers with a psychological thriller that relies heavily on themes of confusion, mistrust and paranoia in an extreme survival situation. In a remote setting with characters encountering an unexpectedly horrific course of events, these themes are easily amplified. It’s a small-budget thriller that’s being described as “Get Out” meets “The Thing”, but the latter is a real stretch and the former comparison never really reaches the tension of the John Carpenter classic.

The movie opens with a trio of young African-American characters driving to a lakeside cottage for a weekend getaway. In the back seat is Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje), in the front sits his older sister Brittney (DeShawn White), and behind the wheel is her fiancé, Tony (Lenny Thomas), as they make their way to the sibling’s parent’s property. The connection between these characters is uncertain initially. All that’s really established as the characters are introduced is it seems like Kevin doesn’t really want to be there (yet, we never find out why he went along) and Tony is kind of full of himself.

 

 

They arrive before sunset with plans of joining their family and find the place mysteriously abandoned, yet with signs that people were recently there or at least nearby. They call out, but no one answers. As they curiously look around, Brittney and Tony are startled by Kevin’s screams and are soon horrified by what caused such a reaction. Kevin has found their parents and some neighbors near the pier, bloodied and dead. Their noise alerts a crazed stranger, who immediately reveals himself as the murderer, pointing a rifle on the trio and asking whether or not they are human or demons.

As this Stranger (Nick Damici) forces the protagonists back into the cottage, he goes on about how he’s been fighting off demonic forces that take the form of humans. How doesn’t divulge how he determines which humans have been possessed, not when this all started or what his plans are. He just wants them all to lay down on the ground, stay inside, and hand him their phones. The trio are understandably confused and scared, and wind up complying in order to stay alive, knowing this Stranger is definitely capable of killing. The Stranger abruptly leaves (it’s unclear to where), but when he returns the trio manage to get the upper hand, with Tony nearby killing the guy with his bare hands before the level-headed siblings convince him to hold off. They wind up taking his weapon and throwing him down in the cellar, but he soon makes it known he’s not alone down there.

The reactions of fright, confusion, and desperation from Brittany and Kevin are natural, but Tony’s behavior becomes unnecessarily rash and particularly abrasive towards Kevin for some reason. Did he not want Kevin to come along? Has he had issues with Kevin for a while now? Covell never cares to answer such questions, leaving viewers in a confounded state, wishing Tony would just go off and disappear. In one horror genre cliche, Tony believes it would be a good idea for him to run off in the black of night and seek help from someone. It could be that Tony’s aggressive behavior is an indication that maybe he’s somehow demon possessed, but that’s never really explored. He becomes not just an unlikeable character (which is fine), but mostly a frustrating one and Lenny Thomas doesn’t really offer much to the role beyond what Covell’s written.

 

 

On that note, there really is no need for Covell to include the notion of demon possession except to give The Stranger a reason to kill and then later on to try to make viewers wonder who’s a demon and who’s not. At that point, there really isn’t enough to go on, nor did I care. The demon compoment really only factors into the story when Kevin, Brittany, and Tony try to help out a scattered woman (Lori Hammel) they find wandering alone at night outside the cottage. Her story – something about missing her Walter – doesn’t really hold up and unfortunately not much is revealed with her character.

The story’s structure is initially the movie’s one strength, opening after a slaughter has occurred at what should be a relaxing, safe, and tranquil location. Imagine arriving at Camp Crystal Lake after Jason has had his typical way with the clueless campers. It would certainly be quite disturbing to find murdered corpses in cabins or on the dock by the lake. Unfortunately, frustration around the story’s substance develops early on and never really lets up.

There definitely could’ve been more to “Blood Conscious” considering it runs under an hour and a half. For one, the relationship dynamic between the trio could’ve been explored a bit more. Think about it – what engaged couple go on a weekend getaway to an lakeside cottage and bring a sibling as a third wheel? There’s really not a valid reason to bring Kevin along except that he’s a one of the first and few characters who believe things can possibly be as crazy as they are. Maybe Brittney needed a buffer because she was thinking of breaking up with the arrogant Tony and that’s why she brought her brother along. Still, he seemed uninterested in the destination from the start, which doesn’t really help keep a viewer interested. At least the actor playing Kevin is interesting to watch. Oghenero Gbaje (seen last year in Beyonce’s “Black is King”) is tall and thin and has somewhat of an awkward gait about him that makes him stand out among the three main characters and he’s got some great expressions to go with his physicality.

It also doesn’t help that much of the outdoor shots of the movie occur in the darkness at night and Covell makes it a constant challenge to figure out what the heck is going on. For a movie that began to increasingly lose my interest, being unable to see what is transpiring doesn’t help any.

“Blood Conscious” leaves you guessing in the end, but not really in a satisfying way. There’s a question as to whether or not the remaining protagonists are indeed human or demon, but Covell’s closure is so abrupt that curiosity quickly turns into frustration for the viewer. It just feels like the story goes nowhere. Rarely do I get bored with a movie, but “Blood Conscious” really did me in and found me getting increasingly frustrated.

 

 

RATING: *1/2

 

 

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