Blood River on DVD

Monday, 19 July 2010 08:12

Blood River” is a taut psychological thriller set in the dusty Nevada desert, where people have dark secrets to hide. Clark (Ian Duncan – “Creep”) and Summer (Tess Panzer – “Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes”) are a loving, married couple. On a road trip to see Tess’ parents, they suffer a dramatic blow-out and crash their car in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, bizarrely their spare tire has gone missing.

They set off on foot to the only settlement in range – the ominously named “Blood River” - but find it deserted. The dishevelled array of rusty shacks and mobile homes offers nothing to relieve their pressing hunger and thirst. Their only hope lies in Joseph (Andrew Howard – “I Spit on Your Grave”, Band of Brothers), a mysterious man in a black cowboy hat and leather jacket who they spotted earlier, hitchhiking along the road.

Blood River on DVDFans of Richard Stanley’s quirky “Dust Devil” as well as both versions of “The Hitcher”, “Cape Fear” and “Long Weekend” will know what to expect from this multi-award-winning thriller from director Andrew Mason (“The Devil’s Chair”). It concentrates heavily on gripping, character-driven drama rather than gore and a high body count, and piles on the atmosphere and tension until, come the shocking dénouement, it is almost unbearable.

The bond between Clark and Summer gradually unravels as their desperation grows, and Joseph’s benign influence transforms into something altogether more divisive and sinister. Alliances shift and the balance of power never seems to stand still for long, keeping the characters and the audience on their toes.

The acting is of a high standard, especially Howard as the husky, squinting stranger with a hidden agenda. Although an early scene gives us a big clue about Joseph’s purpose, the script and his subtle acting keep us guessing as to what the precise nature of his business is, and how he intends to undertake it. Duncan and Panzer are pretty good, too, and really sell the periliousness of their predicament as their characters start fraying at the edges.

Stuart Brereton’s cinematography is beautiful and really makes the most of some stunning if desolate landscapes, unending roads and dramatic skies. The soundtrack accompanies the images capably, switching effortlessly between pulsing beats when the going gets edgy, to powerful organ pieces and religious chanting. It is a real audio-visual treat.

The best thing about the movie, though, is that it really gets under your skin and makes you think, and not just about the lives of the characters it depicts. It makes you consider your own existence, too, a quality that is fairly rare in the world of entertainment these days.

The DVD has no special features, which on the one hand is disappointing, but on the other it means that the deep thoughts it leaves you with are not disrupted or washed away by daft outtakes or a spell-breaking making-of. On balance, I prefer it that way. I

n case you were wondering, the aforementioned awards this movie has won include: Winner of the Breakthrough Performance Award (Andrew Howard) and the Film Competition Award for Best Cinematography (Stuart Brereton) at the 2009 New York VisionFest, and also the Jury Prize for Best Actor (Andrew Howard) at the 2009 Honolulu International Film Festival.

Blood River” (2009) is out now, courtesy of Revolver Entertainment. The running time of the main feature is 100 minutes approx, certificate ‘15’ and the movie retails for £12.99, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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