Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Business Lunch Productions and Director, Kelton Jones for allowing me access to an online screener of his debut feature-length film “Dry Blood”. Dry Blood is a confined psychological Horror/Thriller about Brian (played by Clint Carney, who also wrote the screenplay) an alcoholic and drug addict who’s just relapsed yet again. With plans to get sober once and for all, Brian heads to a lakeside cabin that he shares ownership of with his ex-wife (Rin Ehlers). It’s there that he encounters a strange sheriff (played by Jones himself) and attempts to reconnect with a friend/old flame named Anna (Jaymie Valentine) whilst battling to keep his psyche in check. The film also stars Graham Sheldon, Robert Galluzzo, and Macy Johnson.
Dry Blood had quite the successful festival campaign in 2018, garnering plenty of selections, nominations, and awards for both acting/writing and directing. I didn’t know a lot about the film prior to viewing it but I’m always keen to support independent work. Carney’s contained approach is certainly a smart one, especially when you’re working with limited funds and resources. Dry Blood is mostly psychological in nature and primarily only consists of two characters. The lakeside cabin locale has long been commonplace for the genre, but this particular wooded haven happens to have some character to it. The slanted roofing, the hidden frills, and the crawlspace make for interesting characteristics. The film’s audio track is nice and clear and the music is by Carney’s “System Syn”. It includes the likes of dramatic keys during the intro, and a drum and synth theme to build suspense as the situation escalates. The general score is often made up of individual distant piano notes, it’s rather striking. Dry Blood has some of the best use of natural light that I’ve seen in a low-budget venture for quite a while. Daylight seeping through the kitchen windows and the door awnings makes for some gorgeous interiors.
Graham Sheldon’s cinematography is surprisingly eloquent – all the more impressive is that this is his first time shooting a feature. He sets things up nicely with a series of eclectic establishing shots and utilizes some blurred and warping imagery in order to depict Brian’s intoxicated state from the outset. There’s a lot of steady movements and crisp panning and I particularly like some of the tight shots taken from under the cabin. Carney’s on-screen for almost the entire run time and does a serviceable job of what is clearly a demanding role. I think it’s Jones who delivers the most well-rounded performance though – benefitted by the fact that the sheriff is at the very least interesting, arousing the viewer’s suspicions. Credit must go to Chad Engel and Sioux Sinclair for their superb special fx work. Dry Blood boasts realistic practical blood and gore when it comes to the action. Brian’s head has a habit of playing tricks on him and the images depicted showcase this duo’s prosthetic work. Things eventually come to a head during the third act, doing so in a rather brutal fashion. The likes of which involve guns, knives, and even a beer bottle (that one will make you cringe).
Dry Blood can accurately be described as a slow burn, even at just 80 minutes there feels like a little too much padding was added in order to get it to feature-length running time. An increase in suspense might have been a way to break up those limitations that usually come about due to a lack of time and funds. As it stands, the repetition makes it a bit of a chore to get through at times. The film is guilty of having a couple of telegraphed jump scares and overall it does lack tension. Carney may have written scenes a certain way but they don’t necessarily translate with the same level of impact e.g being Brian’s fear quickly turning to inferior whimpering after he’s seen a spirit. There are a few forced lines of dialogue and I think Kelton and Co could’ve done a little more with their foley work in order to heighten the atmosphere. The emotional surges are oftentimes where the inexperience of the cast shows. Carney wanes when it comes to the crying and most of Valentine’s delivery lacks conviction, though that may have been the intent if her character was a little on the wishy-washy side. Being of a subconscious nature, I figured I’d be left with a few questions at the end but I really didn’t get a whole lot of clarity on events that transpired (or didn’t). How did Anna even get to the mountain town? It didn’t strike me as a place that public transport called on, Was Alecia related to Brian and is that why he saw her clothing at the cabin when he arrived? Who or what was the sheriff? Just a manifestation of Brian’s? Or was it as I perceived, that everything had already previously happened and he just couldn’t remember any of it? Make of those points what you will.
I read a couple of mind-boggling reviews for Dry Blood that virtually liken the quality to an inferior student film endeavor, a critique that’s entirely unjustified and rather disrespectful to those involved. I’m not entirely sure your average movie-goer knows what goes into making a film, that and the preconceived notion that the majority of independents have endless amounts of time and money to spend on their projects (which just simply isn’t the case). Dry Blood can be more accurately described as bearing small time comparisons to the likes of David Koepp’s “Secret Window”, perhaps by way of Benson and Moorhead’s “Resolution”. Production value well and truly eclipses your average low-budget venture, the location lends itself to some great cinematography, and the score rests on a number of equally effective tones. Jones is strong despite the character’s one-note reach and Carney does his best to maintain a heightened intensity. The practical blood and gore fx during the final act are where Dry Blood really shines. The downside is that the films slow-burn nature renders it somewhat of a chore in certain sections. It lacks suspense due to some flat reactionary content and the odd predictable jump scare. Jaymie’s performance is guilty of lacking energy and the remaining ambiguity left me feeling a little dissatisfied. With all that said, Kelton and Co showcase ample know-how and the end result is a fine debut feature-length genre film. If you’re a fan of psychological and intimate horror I’d suggest giving Dry Blood a spin. It’s now available on DVD and Blu Ray as well as various online streaming platforms. You can check out the official trailer below!
My rating for “Dry Blood” is 6/10