Aside from camp counsellors, does anyone have it harder in horror than professional dancers? Ballet is an apparently brutal profession. And we’ve probably all heard that performers suffer for their craft. The latest straight-to-video psychological horror outing, Bloody Ballet, looks to tread some familiar ground. One part Black Swan, one part Suspiria, Bloody Ballet, or Fantasma, looks to join Mandy as a fan favourite surrealist nightmare.
Young ballerina Adriana Mena gets the break of a lifetime. She’s just landed the lead role in her company’s production of The Nutcracker. But just as things look to be going her way, Adriana begins a slow descent into madness. She’s haunted by a past tragedy and horrific visions. Her success also sparks jealously among her fellow performers. Things only worsen when a masked figure begins stalking and killing Adriana’s fellow dancers.
A Beautifully Gory Tribute to the Giallo Films
Similar to Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, Bloody Ballet is a beautifully shot movie. Director Brett Mullen fills his movie with lush dreamlike images that make Bloody Ballet feel like a lucid dream. He bathes scenes in bright, stark red and green lighting. The opening winter-set scene is striking, almost postcard perfect in its framing. A later flashback uses saturated colouring to stylistic effect. To his credit, Mullen’s a bold filmmaker who washes Bloody Ballet with the Giallo sensibilities of a Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci.
Bloody Ballet’s DIY gore effects would likely have impressed ‘Godfather of Gore’.
Bloody Ballet’s DIY gore effects would likely have impressed ‘Godfather of Gore’ Lucio Fulci. Arguably, this is one of the more brutally unrestrained horror movies in recent memory. Bloody Ballet even rivals Terrifier with its uncompromising violence. Eyeballs are gouged out, and stomachs ripped open with intestines gleefully exposed. Though the effects are clearly low budget, they’re certainly no less impressive. If you’re a fan of 1970’s and 1980’s Italian horror, you’ll find at least a few things to enjoy with Bloody Ballet.
Bloody Ballet is Bloody Incoherent
If Mullen and Cloude wanted to emulate the Giallo, they succeeded on one other front. Giallo films were often stunningly gorgeous, brutally violent, and narratively thin. In this regard, Bloody Ballet is an almost incoherent piece of story-telling. To be honest, this is a messy movie that strings the audience along on a gorgeous journey from one death to the next. There’s a past mystery introduced at the start of the movie, which has little to do with anything that inevitably happens. Some of the laziest expository dialogue this side of Psycho says it does. But it’s so disjointed from the story as to be irrelevant. Do other dancers in the company get jealous when Adrianna lands the lead role? I guess so. There’s more expository dialogues that says so. But the characters aren’t just underdeveloped – they should be wearing name tags.
Inconsistently written characters and illogical storytelling abound.
Inconsistently written characters and illogical storytelling abound. Another sub-plot involving a news journalist runs parallel to the main story. Mullen and Cloude seem to think it all connects by the movie’s end, but good luck trying to understand how. It raises plot holes more gaping than some of the wounds left in the movie’s victims. And don’t forget the climax. It’s a laughable ‘dog’s breakfast’ of ideas thrown at the screen in a desperate last pitch to add some heft to the story.
Poorly Written Characters and Stiff Acting Lurk Around Every Corner
Another hallmark of low-budget Giallo movie-making – stiff acting – finds its way into Bloody Ballet. No one in the movie really escapes unscathed. The performances are almost all universally wooden. Only Scream Queen veterans Caroline Williams and Debbie Rochon manage to turn in portrayals that don’t feel like they’re succumbing to rigor mortis. To be fair to the actors, Matt Cloude’s script deserves most of the blame. The screenplay fails to give any of the characters consistent motivations or even distinguishable traits.
Bloody Ballet Will Test Your Love of Giallo and All Things ’80’s
Ultimately, Bloody Ballet is a wild contrast in style and effect. On the one hand, Mullen’s Giallo tribute approaches previously released Mandy as a lucid, nightmarish visual journal. The movie is tightly paced movie with impressive gore effects. No one will ever accuse Bloody Ballet of being boring. Still this is an absolute mess of storytelling that never approaches anything remotely resembling coherence. It’s long-term viability really depends on whether it hits that midnight movie ‘so bad it’s good’ vibe.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+