Receiving 11 nominations and 5 awards in 2016, over its appearance at genre film festivals, Dry Blood seemed ready to be released in 2017. However, it’s been shelved until January 11th, 2019. Why is that? Why a film that is widely praised in the horror community couldn’t find its way to a proper release?
This curiosity, in combination with some friends on Facebook (thanks, Michael!) and Twitter recommending it to me, is the reason why I gave this low-budget film a watch.
The story appears to be simple and straightforward: Brian Barns (Clint Carney, who also wrote the script) is an addict and an alcoholic, so he decides to do good for himself by going to a remote cabin set in a rural mountain town and drying himself out. Before he gets to the location, however, he stops by at a gas station where a police officer shows a certain unwanted attention to him.
“Oh, so the cop is actually a maniac and this movie is nothing more then a home-invasion flick, right?”. Wrong! Dry Blood is much different from what one might expect and, I’d say, much more than one might hope for: I suggest you to read this review until the spoiler section (down below), watch the movie and then come back to read the rest: if you haven’t seen Dry Blood but decide to read the spoiler-filled part, you’re experience will probably be ruined.
In fact, Kelton Jones’ Dry Blood works best as a mystery kind of psychological thriller. After a rusty start, this film gets progressively more eerie and compelling: strange shit happens around Brian and he can’t quite figure out whether it’s a supernatural force messing with him, the police officer pulling a sick prank or the lack of alcohol and pills in his body.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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This mystery is enhanced by a creepy soundtrack by System Syn, an electro-industrial and future-pop music group from California. Their score sounds awesome in the context of the film: it’s very different from the shitty soundtracks of most mainstream horror flicks and manages to create a constant, uneasy vibe that truly elevates the picture.
Speaking of sound, particularly of sound design, Dry Blood relies on scratchy and squishy sound effects that foreshadow something very brutal and nasty to come… yet, the movie doesn’t shy away from jump-scares, but it uses them only when necessary and with loud noises that sound very different from what your ears are probably used to.
Yet, similarly to jump-scares, Dry Blood doesn’t refuse horror conventions (such as ‘the cabin in the woods’ scenario) but it gives them a fresh and somewhat original appearance by great use of lighting – with the house serving as a perfect location – and clever camera-work: the whole film is shot through hand-held camera, which gives it a slightly shaky and nauseating feel, just as drug addict Brian must feel.
Why was Dry Blood not released before, if it’s so great? Well, I read online – thus I can’t be 100% certain – that director Kelton Jones wanted to get his degree in cinema before releasing the film: that way he could’ve changed things knowing more about cinema. Eventually, he did change the last part of Dry Blood and you can really tell! However, I’ll discuss about the third act of the movie in the spoiler-filled paragraph.
Even though I was pleasantly surprised by Dry Blood, there are elements in the film that don’t quite work. For example, the acting. From what I understand, all the actors involved in Dry Blood had little to no experience in the industry, thus they either overact some scenes or appear wooden in others. That said, Carney’s performance grew on me over the course of the movie and, since he’s the main character here, that’s a good thing.
Besides some of the acting, a very rusty start that shows quite amateur production values, and a few awkward moments that left me confused more than anything, Dry Blood is a true indie gem, one that you should watch as soon as you can. If you can’t find the movie right now, click on the images below to watch films that have a similar plot or vibe. In the meantime, I’ll venture into spoiler-land: don’t follow me unless you’ve already seen the film!
Dry Blood 7.5/10
DRY BLOOD – ENDING EXPLAINED [spoilers]
Throughout the whole runtime – or, well, over the course of the first hour – I kept wondering whether Dry Blood had to do with paranormal entities or showed us the slow decent into madness of an addict. As it turned out, neither theory was correct.
Towards the climactic ending where, during the last 25 minutes the film complete changes in tone as I said before, we get to see Brian, tired of being stalked by the police officer, shooting him and ripping his face apart! Yes, from this point on Dry Blood becomes really graphic and relentless, very much in contrast with the somewhat meditative vibe of the first part of the film. While he’s cleaning the floor from the blood of the officer – and that of a girlfriend who came by to help him but also died under mysterious circumstances – Brian’s ex wife makes an appearance: the two of them start arguing, until their altercation takes an ultra-violent turn with Brian gagging her with a bottle of beer and smashing her face on the floor.
As though this wasn’t insane enough, all of the sudden Brian’s little daughter and the new boyfriend of his ex wife show up: Brian loses it, punches and beats the guy to death and, in the most gruesome and disturbing sequence of the film, chases his daughter, cuts her throat while screaming at her and, ultimately, cuts her head off with a kitchen knife!
At this point, even if you’re a true gore-hound, you might be like: “ok, cool, but what’s the point? What does it all mean?”. If you listen carefully to the song that plays during the end credits (Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think, by Guy Lombardo & The Royal Canadians – great song, by the way), everything makes sense and you don’t even have to read into the movie too much.
Basically, the whole picture shows Brian going through hell. More specifically, our main character goes through his personal hell: he killed his family at some point, therefore his endless punishment is to re-enact the events of that dramatic night over and over again, for eternity.
Sure, the sudden change in tone of Dry Blood causes the film to be inconsistent in tone but I do believe it helps the movie, on the other hand, to go out with a bang and to be more memorable. Also, this reveal is not manipulative nor cheap at all: hints to what happened are scattered throughout the whole movie, although not always in the subtlest way. Yet, the reveal is clever but not obscure, to the point that if you just pay a little bit of attention you won’t be confused. Overall, I’m glad to have found this horror gem and I can’t recommend it enough.
Do you have other explanations for the ending or the meaning of Dry Blood? If so, please let me know in the comments!