GORE IN THE STORE
BORN BLOOD ****
Directed by Reed Shusterman.
Starring Rosie Moss, Antoine Perry, Melanie Haynes, Cole Gerdes, Laurine Price, Leah Verrill.
Horror, USA, 92 mins.
Released on Digital platforms by Terror Films on July 16th 2021.
Pregnancy and childbirth has played quite a significant part in horror movies, from the mutant babies of ERASERHEAD and IT’S ALIVE to the apocalyptic warnings of THE OMEN (and that disgusting birth scene in THE FLY) the thought of expectancy and the idea that life will never be the same again has been a useful metaphor in telling often quite frightening stories.
Which brings us to BLOOD BORN, the second feature from writer/director Reed Shusterman (2016s GOBLIN QUEEN being his first) who apparently started writing the script when he and his wife were trying for a baby, and the angst and fears of impending parenthood come across almost immediately when young couple Makayla (Rosie Moss) and Eric (Antoine Perry) attend a group for wannabe parents. Desperate for a baby the couple turn to Ola (Melanie Haynes), who comes recommended from friend-of-a-friend Susan (Leah Verrill) as part of an organisation who help childless couples conceive; in fact, they’re so successful that Susan had even had a hysterectomy and still managed to conceive – that is impressive!
Obviously sceptical, because such a thing is medically impossible, the couple still go along with Ola and her magical ways as they have to prepare their bodies and souls for three weeks before Ola comes to stay for a week of rituals before the birth. Throw in the organisation’s mysterious Dr. Zakeny (Cole Gerdes), who only seems to be available at night for some reason, and Susan discovering that her baby requires more than just milk to satiate its thirst and Makayla and Eric start to wonder if parenthood is going to be as wonderful as they imagined it would be.
So yes, BLOOD BORN is an obvious metaphor for the frightening unknown of parenthood but Reed Shusterman’s personal experience shines through and adds a layer of authenticity to the writing, although it is unclear whether Makayla and, especially, Eric are meant to be as bland as they are depicted, whether it is the performances or the direction, or whether it is because both leads are totally outshone by Melanie Haynes as Ola, a more jovial Mrs- Baylock-type figure who moves in with the couple and takes over not only the house but every scene she is in. Such is her reassuring manner and quick-to-act response to everything that even though you know she is up to no good right from the outset you can’t help but go along with her eccentric old-world ways. To be fair, Ola has to sell the concept of conceiving without a womb and going full term and delivering a baby within a week so she has to be larger-than-life to at least make Makayla and Eric listen to her, and Melanie Haynes is simply brilliant.
Set mainly in the couple’s house, with a couple of scenes at Susan’s house, BLOOD BORN makes good use of the feeling of being enclosed, as Ola frowns upon Makayla and Eric having visitors and insists the organisation takes care of all of their needs. However, the limitations of the budget become apparent during the final ten minutes when the full realisation of what the couple have done comes to fruition and the reveal, whilst effective and staged well, feels like it could have done with a bit more in the way of visual effects and splatter to really hammer home the horror. Also, the scenes in Susan’s house where members of the organisation appear like CIA operatives feels underdeveloped and perhaps needed exploring a bit more; ‘less is more’ often works well in low budget horror movies but occasionally these plot threads need a bit more meat on the bone to make them pay off more effectively.
Nevertheless, BLOOD BORN is a movie that, despite its budgetary shortcomings, rattles along at a steady pace, has plenty of intrigue and enough plot going on to keep you invested until the end. As previously stated, Makayla and Eric are totally vanilla as characters but that could be the point, and Melanie Haynes totally anchors the movie with her imposing performance, with Cole Gerdes also being quite fun in his scenes as the doctor, although he is lacking a moustache to twirl. Light on gore but heavy on intrigue and underlying terror, BLOOD BORN is one of the more engaging direct-to-streaming horror movies of the past year and if it appears on your streaming service of choice then you could do worse than give it 92 minutes of your attention.