Thursday, July 5, 2018

In short: Family Blood (2018)

Ellie (Vinessa Shaw), a recovering pill addict, has apparently only just gotten back the custody rights for her kids Kyle (Colin Ford) and Amy (Eloise Lushina). The family has moved to a new city, Ellie has a new job, but relations between her and the kids are strained – Kyle’s going the whole teenage rebellion route and Amy is growing up too quickly – and her struggle with her addiction is on less than stable footing.

One night, when she’s falling off the wagon right after an Addicts Anonymous session, another AA member, Christopher (James Ransone), assaults her and turns her into a vampire for vague and messed up reasons all of his own. Turns out, people who already can’t cope with more typical addictions are badly prepared for vampirism, so the family relations are going to become even more strained than before.

By now, films about vampirism as addiction or addiction metaphor have become their own subgenre. I suspect, right this moment more of them are being made than ones about romantic bloodsuckers. The thing is, once a sub-genre reaches this kind of saturation point, a perfectly innocent and decent little addict vampire flick like Sonny Mallhi’s Family Blood isn’t just a scrappy little underdog of a movie anymore, but goes to bat against films that are genre-defining or just plain great. Watching something like it, I can’t help but ask myself questions like “what does this add to the idea of vampirism as addiction?”, or “how different is anything in it compared with the last half dozen movies in the subgenre I have seen?”. Family Blood’s main problem is that the answers to these questions are “not much” and “it’s less well realized”, leaving me with a film working in a genre with rather tight borders – there’s really only so much you can do with the theme – that does little to actually stand out.

It’s a bit disappointing, really, for the acting is rather alright, the film looks pretty (there are indeed some outright beautiful shots), and up until the final act, it does very little that’s actually wrong. Rather, there’s nothing about anything going on in it that goes beyond the tropes and plot beats you’d expect from it, the usual concerns about family and vampirism playing out pretty much as is traditional.

The final act, though, isn’t just not good enough: it is a total mess where characters change their motivations randomly, a hilariously staged death of a barely characterized side figure is supposed to evoke a heavy emotional reaction in the audience that isn’t laughter, and all ideas the film might end up saying anything worthwhile at all about addiction and its impact on families go out the window. Worse still, the film seldom manages to work as a horror film despite being about something downright traumatic. It never really digs into the inner lives of its characters, only ever skimming the surface level.

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