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BLOODLINE ***

Directed by Henry Jacobson. Starring Seann William Scott, Mariella Garriga, Dale Dickey.
Horror, USA, 95 mins.

Reviewed at London at Arrow Video FrightFest

 

Sean William Scott has done the most in getting some distance from his role as Stifler in the American Pie comedies. Whereas the majority of his fellow cast members from that long-ago franchise still peddle in comedies and light drama, if they are working at all, Scott here shows a malevolent side, containing a barely suppressed rage, in this bloody exploration of a serial killer trying to juggle his bloodlust with raising a new-born baby.

 

The pathology of serial killers has been explored at length in all forms of media countless times before and the family man/mass murderer dynamic was the basis for DEXTER. But where that series contorted itself narratively in justifying and trying to redeem its main characters homicidal instincts to lesser effect the more it went on, Bloodline, in its own refreshing yet disturbing manner, feels no need to make any such excuses presenting us with a far more morally complex and disquieting portrait of homicide with a number of surprises up its own sleeve with a giallo infused sensibility.

 

Scott plays Evan, a high school guidance councillor. Struggling with tending to the needs of his new-born baby son and his wife who seems to be going through post-partum depression. Feeling a sense of unease when the birth of his son stirs up memories of his own abusive father the compulsion to pick up the gym bag from the garage, which does not contain running equipment but various knives and plastic sheets, to use on the family members causing trouble for the students in his care raises its head once more.

 

Opening with the graphic throat slitting of a young nurse in a shower the film starts off on a potentially troubling note. However, the film gradually reveals itself as one that is not interested in titillating the audience with the usual slasher movie tropes. Henry Jacobson and scriptwriters Avra-Fox Lerner and Will Honley manage to slyly subvert the conventions of slasher cinema. When the audience may feel they are being asked to side with Evan as a righteous vigilante his victims, and the often sickening effects of the violence they are subjected to, as well as the effects on their family and friends, is presented in a matter of fact manner that presents Evan, and audience, with the moral quandaries of such a course of action.

 

Scott is excellent here with this moral blank of a character, all caring smiles at home and school but try to keep count how many times he actually stabs his victims when he reveals his true nature. It is virtually impossible.  Even more impressive, and just as chilling, is the always great Dale Dickey as his mother Marie. Dickey usually seen in supporting roles gets more of a chance in the spotlight here. Her portrayal of a caring mother and eager grandmother is nearly as chilling as the film hints at her own nurturing of Evan as a possible catalyst for his mental state.

 

Jacobson’s direction carries nods to De Palma with its use of split screen and welcome injections of black humour that pop up every now and again, especially with its twisted conclusion that comments on the dynamics of the typical American suburban family. When introducing the FrightFest screening of Bloodline, Jacobson was excited and seemingly proud that the audience were about to experience his unrated directors cut which seems so far to have been denied a release in America. Whether it makes it over here in such a form remains to be seen and it may struggle to connect with an audience due to its nihilistic and bloody nature which may also trigger some viewers unwilling or unable, due to its stark and realistic depictions of violence, to connect with. If you have the stomach for it, Bloodline is worth getting to grips with even although it really is not saying anything new or particularly revelatory about its subjects.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

 

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