From Suspiria to Black Swan, it seems that filmmakers have always been fascinated with the darker side of ballet. It makes sense, considering all the hardcore training and painful conditioning that goes on behind a facade of traditionally feminine beauty and dreamlike grace, but this age-old dichotomy has provided us with several great horror stories in the past. With that in mind, director and co-writer Brett Mullen aims to use this art-form as a jumping-off point for his own Giallo-inspired thriller, Bloody Ballet.
Bloody Ballet stars Kendra Carelli as Adriana Mena, an up-and-coming dancer who’s just landed the coveted lead role in a new rendition of The Nutcracker. However, Adriana’s inner demons begin to spoil the excitement as she’s plagued by terrible visions, all the while her friends and rivals are being stalked and murdered by a mysterious masked figure. Madness, jealousy and the supernatural intertwine as these ballerinas face their most dangerous performance yet.
At first glance, the plot sounds like a straightforward homage to the work of masters like Dario Argento, but as the film goes on things start to get shaky, as the creative cinematography and kickass (albeit misused) soundtrack can’t quite make up for a frustratingly obtuse narrative. Mullen seems to have all the ingredients ready for an entertaining psychological thriller, but the shoddy execution makes the film feel like less than the sum of its parts.
Carelli delivers a compelling performance as a tortured but talented dancer, but it’s too bad that the script doesn’t do her character justice. The story rushes through several conflicting personality traits and uses them as plot devices rather than allowing the movie to work as a character study. This disregard for the more human side of things is almost justified by the quality of the kills and gore effects, but it ultimately makes the film ring hollow.
It’s possible that the filmmakers thought so as well, as they attempted to spice things up with dreamlike storytelling, erratic editing and a slightly obnoxious (though consistently entertaining) soundtrack. Individually, all these things seem like great ideas, injecting energy and creativity into an otherwise dull experience, but the overuse of these elements just ends up confusing the viewer.
While Bloody Ballet does boast some legitimately thrilling sequences, there are also quite a few extraneous plot threads that should have been cut in order to streamline the experience. At times, it feels like there are several smaller films edited in-between scenes here, and they don’t all add up by the end. The final twist is also poorly executed, explained through a condescending voice-over that really hurts the entire film.
Bloody Ballet may not be an outright awful film, but it does feel rather underwhelming when you consider its cinematic inspirations. While there are several instances of genuine creativity in most areas of the production, none of these can quite make up for the film’s narrative shortcomings. At its best, the movie is a flawed yet entertaining dreamlike romp, but at its worst, everything feels like a derivative mess with pretentious overtones. At the end of the day, you have better options if you feel like watching some Giallo-inspired ballet horror.
Bloody Ballet will be available on VOD November 13th.