First, to preface; this title sucks. Bad Blood? I half expected a film with Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude van Damme fighting psychopathic terrorists or gangster thugs bent on world domination aboard a U.S. battleship. But alas…
…it is, in reality, a take on the ol’ reliable haunted house theme. And a pretty darn good one, at that. Bad Blood is the kind of sneaky film that broods, building slowly, taking it’s time to wrap you up. Except, that’s all it does, truthfully. It’s intriguing and never dawdles, keeping you eager to watch. But it’s like a baseball game with no bottom of the ninth. The tension never really seems to be…resolved. And then game over. Fortunately, the movie is well worth the journey otherwise, pay-off or not. And did I mention it’s Portugese?
The story involves a family moving to the countryside to escape the big city of Lisbon. The father, a doctor of biology, inherits a suitably creepy and soon-to-be-realized haunted mansion. The family moves in, hijinks ensue. Hold on. That doesn’t seem to do the film justice. What works is the look of the film, the choice of colors and location, the minimalist camera techniques and the off-kilter, simplistic score.
While the actual plot rehashes many a genre story, the friction created by the charcters’ opposing views creates an interesting dynamic. The story pits a pair of doctors, the father and mother, both scientists at heart, against a town of staunch Christians. Add into the mix a healthy dose of folklore from the local citizenry and you have three unique viewpoints creating tension and adding depth to the film. A not-to-subtle battle of ideologies, akin to Don’t Look Now, if you catch my drift.
The directors were wise to use wide, static shots. We are observers, like in an art gallery. The cameras don’t roam or shake or use tricks to scare us or influence us. They linger; on cold, autumn trees, empty hallways, the sparse hills of the Portugal countryside. The colors are drained and bleak, dark earthy tones mix with blacks and greys. Lots of cold stone, earth and fog in this one.
And backing everything up is the low-key score, often highlighted by long stretches of nothing more than background noise –much more effective than shattering a scene with the wrong song. The rest is a strange blend of electric guitar effects, off key and bizarre, yet hitting all the right notes (man that was a cheesy line, my deepest apologies).
Of course, there are some simple, heavy-handed aspects which kept this one from pushing through the regular fold. They are mostly obvious genre conventions more than anything – seemingly inescapable plotlines that always pop up. The fueding family, the unkindly locals, a gaggle of vengeful spirits, and of course, a terrible past event in the house all make an appearance. As does a séance, for that matter. And as always, the children seem to find out everything supernatural before the skeptical adults. Damn…kids these days, eh? Why are they always seeing those darned dead people? Beats me.
It’s at heart a ghost/haunted house story, and anyone with a penchant for films like The Changeling or Session 9 will enjoy this one. At times creepy, sometimes beautiful and always intriguing, Bad Blood is a satisfying watch and a definite recommendation.