Thursday, May 10, 2012
Scooter Downey's IT'S IN THE BLOOD: Fathers. Sons. Monsters.
It's In The Blood (2012)
Directed by Scooter Downey
Written by Scooter Downey and Sean Elliot
It's In The Blood Official Site
In Scooter Downey's emotional feature It's in the Blood, a young man named October spends considerable time wandering in a fog. He does so in a literal and figurative sense, grasping fearfully at the unknown hidden in the dense mist. He is grappling with inner demons - punishing memories of a traumatic event in his past. Powerless and heartbroken, he navigates the fog armed only with survival skills he's picked up from books. Possessing a photographic memory, he's unable to escape the vivid monsters taking residence in his nightmares. Instead, he returns to the very place from which they were born: Home.
Sean Elliot (also co-writer) stars as October, a young man wracked with guilt and grief. He has fled from everything, moving purposeless from one place to the next. Though his body left home long ago, his mind has always remained, locked in moments of great love and greater loss. Perhaps with aspirations of being a doctor, he gets by on performing random acts of kindness. However, it's not enough to bury an inescapable past. It's now time for him to face things head on and put the demons to rest.
The veritable prodigal son returns home to face a tragic history and a father he left behind. His father Russell (legendary Lance Henriksen) - the law in their rural town - is a tough, yet caring man. It's clear October has never lived up to his expectations, but the friction between them is much deeper. Something profoundly tragic has touched their lives, something that's driven a wedge between them. Downey and Elliot gives us brief glimpses of that event in small flashbacks, tiny snapshots that form a complete grievous moment by the film's end. Though they try half-heartedly to make amends, October's desire to prove himself makes it a huge challenge.
When October and Russell find themselves stranded in the woods, a horrifying creature reveals itself in the shadows of the surrounding forest. Cold, hungry, and stalked by a predator, the two men must put aside their differences in the name of survival. They have no choice but to confront this living, breathing embodiment of their turmoil. This involves cooperation and communication - something this father and son have difficulty managing in their dysfunctional relationship. When Russell is gravely injured, it becomes October's responsibility to get them to safety. This means he must face the monster armed only with his cunning and the support of his father. It's time for Russell to grow up and charge head first into adversity. As Russell puts it: "To be a man, you have to kill the boy inside you."
The use of monsters as metaphor has always been one of my favorite aspects of horror films. Here, the creature is a culmination of everything from family estrangement to senseless murder. In calculated glimpses, Downey and Elliot give revolting physical form to the memories plaguing both men. They satisfy the cravings of two camps of horror fans: those starving for an intense character exploration, and those who simply enjoy cool creatures. It's in the Blood succeeds on both fronts, even if the filmmakers are in pursuit of loftier goals than mindless entertainment. It'll take more than one liners and fancy weapons to conquer this beast.
What's exciting to me is how much this cast and crew accomplished with what is likely a shoestring budget. Masterful use of the forest location is key in creating the proper atmosphere for this unique survivalist tale. One of the main reasons I enjoy writing for this site is that Mike and I get to experience innovative work from filmmakers with limited means. Minimalism in scope and effects are balanced by thoughtful cinematography by Mike Simpson, effectively moody score by Didier Rachou, and two of the most powerful performances you're likely to see this year. Mr. Henriksen in particular should be pleased that Russell was written with such depth. In most other monster films, his gravity would be misused. The lines on his aged face harbor the authenticity on which this film hinges. Not to be overshadowed, Sean Elliot delivers a top notch performance alongside the renown and respected actor. The rest of the cast rounded out by Rose Sirna and Jimmy Gonzales does an exceptional job. It's quite a remarkable collection of talent that serves this character-driven piece very well.
The filmmakers make tasteful use of CG effects mixed with some really great practical makeup effects to bring the creature to life. Thin and insect-like, it reminds me a bit of the alien monter from X-Tro ( a personal favorite of mine). I'd say it's more akin to a walking stick bug, a fascinating insect we see camouflaging itself in the film's opening moments. The creature blends in perfectly with its surroundings adding a sense of mystery and urgency to the story. Andrew Varenhorst, the man in the monster suit, could be a new generation's Doug Jones. His portrayal of the monster - despite the obvious limitations of working with prosthetics and suits - is writhing with anguish and fury.
My only complaint is not really a complaint at all. Once the past event is revealed, it comes off as a bit overly sensationalistic. I don't know if the team was trying to amp up the violence to attract a wider fan base, but a more subtle denoument of the pivotal flashback moment would have worked just as effectively. The estrangement between father and son would have worked as well either way. Again, this is not really a complaint, and not something that detracts from the overall satisfying experience of the film as a whole. I could counter my own criticism by stating that the shocking violence works by giving us a jolt (or an epiphany felt by October) against the relatively somber tone of the rest of the film.
It's In The Blood is making the festival rounds at the moment. I'd be surprised if it didn't collect several armloads of awards. The skill and maturity on display is impressive. Make certain you seek it out at the first available opportunity. Monster movies with this much heart and respect for its audience don't come around often enough.
It's In The Blood Trailer