GORE IN THE STORE
THE BLOODHOUND ****
Directed by Patrick Picard.
Starring Annalise Basso, Joe Adler, Liam Aiken, Kimleigh Smith, Gaby Santinelli.
Horror/Mystery, USA, 72 mins, cert 15.
Released in the UK on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on Monday 22nd March 2021.
A true classic never goes out of style, and when a story is flexible enough to withstand changing times, attitudes and settings and still manages to hold the power that made it effective in the first place then how can it fail to, at the very least, intrigue a new audience?
Patrick Picard’s directorial debut THE BLOODHOUND is, for all intents and purposes, a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting classic THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER in which Francis (Liam Aiken – ROAD TO PERDITION) is invited by old friend Jean Paul (Joe Adler – TWIN PEAKS) to come and stay in his secluded house. JP’s father has died and left him and his sister Vivian (Annalise Basso – OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL) a substantial fortune but Vivian is not well and confined to her room and JP is lonely, and so Francis turns up but the reunion with his old friend soon sours as it turns out money cannot buy happiness, Vivian creeps into Francis’s room at night to talk to him and the house seems to be having an effect on them all.
Stuffed full of metaphors, some subtle and some not so subtle – a masked figure creeping in and out of Francis’s closet at night is very much trying to state the obvious – the oppressive atmosphere of THE BLOODHOUND smothers you from the opening frames and doesn’t let up for a second, making the appearance of the closing credits something of a relief but in a good way; good because the filmmakers have done their job and made a movie that creeps under your skin but also good for its characters as their torment is now over.
And tormented they are as our surrogate Roderick Usher Jean Paul is very much the incarnation of a tortured soul, somebody who has everything but still cannot buy – or possibly even find – the companionship he desires. Francis also seems to have a few demons and the uneasy and awkward atmosphere between the two young men – and they haven’t seen each other in ten years, implying they were teenagers when they last met – is palpable and wonderfully acted by both leads, the script inferring something in their past that triggers the awkwardness but leaving it to your imagination as to what, although one particular scene attempts to address it, just in case the subliminal imagery isn’t enough.
As with its source material, the house itself becomes a player in how the story unfolds thanks to some stunning cinematography that seems to make the scenery move; not in the same ‘wobbly sets' way that Roger Corman’s 1960 adaptation does but with lingering camera shots down narrow corridors and stairways to signify claustrophobia mixed with wide shots of certain rooms, showing how much space JP has but yet cannot escape his personal terrors. You could argue that the film relies more on symbolism and metaphor than it does on strong writing – and that it true, to a point – but given how well acted and shot it is, combined with the crushing intensity that is created, then the lack of details and motivations doesn’t really matter and is easily ignored.
If you are unfamiliar with Poe’s original story or any of the numerous film adaptations then going in cold to THE BLOODHOUND might not be the best way to get the most out of it as it is very much a modern take on universal themes of mental illness and the isolation that it can bring but with a whimsical vagueness and deeper sense of the strange that might be off-putting if you are unprepared for it. There is also a vein of very black humour that runs through it – the pizza delivery scene is very much something that THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN could have conjured up – to break a bit of the tension, only ever so slightly but enough to remind you that these characters are human beings with a humans being’s flaws.
Coming backed with an audio commentary by director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorca, four experimental short films by Patrick Picard and a behind-the-scenes featurette, this isn’t the most packed Blu-ray release that Arrow have put out but it is an excellent showcase for a genre director with the potential to create his own visual signature on the screen. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here with more original material to work with.