Do you know your neighbours? Your friends? Family? Good horror movies tap into basic fears that transcend time periods. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers to The Thing to The Invitation, paranoia has made for fertile ground in the horror genre. One of the strengths of the premise is its malleability. That is, good filmmakers and storytellers can adapt it to a range of time periods and contexts. Currently available on Shudder, Blood Conscious – which released in 2021 – promises to mix a ‘trapped in the woods’ setting themes of paranoia and race relations. Though it’s a smaller indie horror movie, a handful of reviews have some good things to say about it.
Looking forward to a relaxing weekend away, Brittney and her fiancé, Tony, are on their way to her parent’s cottage. Along for the ride, Brittney’s younger brother, Kevin is less excited about the getaway. When the trio arrive, however, they find the cabin mysteriously quiet and empty. Just outside by the lake, Tony finds Brittney’s parents and guests brutally murdered. Things immediately get worse when the man responsible takes the survivors hostage as he rants about demons. Miles from help and hostage by a dangerously disturbed man, the three family members must find a way to escape.
Blood Conscious Filled With Good Ideas, Inconsistent Execution
Don’t go into Blood Conscious expecting fast-paced action or gore galore. Despite its premise, writer and director Timothy Covell opts for a slow burn approach to the material. In an interesting twist, the massacre that sets everything in motion happens before the movie’s starting point. Covell avoids a typical siege or ‘trapped in the woods’ narrative in favor of psychological tension. Unfortunately, sluggish pacing and a consistent lack of tension hurt the thriller’s attempt to elicit discomfort from the possibility that ‘The Stranger’ may be a demon. In this regard, Blood Conscious falls short another indie horror effort, I Trapped The Devil. If the paranoia and uncertainly occasionally works, Covell undoes it with a lackluster ending.
Unfortunately, sluggish pacing and a consistent lack of tension hurt the thriller’s attempt to elicit discomfort from the possibility that ‘The Stranger’ may be a demon.
In addition to pacing and scare issues, Covell’s screenplay is equally hit and miss. Certainly, there’s no lack of ideas here. But Covell introduces these ideas and themes only to leave them underdeveloped or unexplored. Are there really demons possessing people? Blood Conscious isn’t so much ambiguous as it is uncertain about its own premise. Covell dangles enough information for audiences. By the movie’s finale, most viewers won’t likely to be confused as much as disinterested. That is, Blood Conscious just doesn’t do much with the idea. As for its most interesting theme, Blood Conscious introduces clear racial elements in its middle act. The confrontation between a white assailant and young Black people – and their fear of how outsiders will respond – generates some tension. But Covell seemingly sets that idea aside for what feels like a pretty underwhelming conclusion.
Blood Conscious Features Good Performances That Mostly Overcome a Spotty Screenplay
If Covell’s screenplay is a bit bumpy, the performances are largely good across the boards. All three principal actors convince you of the exceptional circumstances in which they find themselves. In particular, Oghenero Gbage, playing Kevin, stands out as the one family member who slowly believes ‘The Stranger’. No, it doesn’t make much sense that Kevin would be hanging out with his older sister and fiancé. And the ease with which all Brittney, Kevin, and Tony move past the tragic death of family members requires some suspension of disbelief. But these are screenplay problems. Both DeShawn White (Brittney) and Lenny Thomas (Tony) are equally convincing in their respective parts.
No, it doesn’t make much sense that Kevin would be hanging out with his older sister and fiancé.
While indie horror fans may protest, the one spotty performance comes courtesy of Nick Damici. In the criminally underseen Stake Land, Damici was pitch perfect as a weary vampire hunter. Though he brings the same gruffness to ‘The Stranger’ in Blood Conscious, Damici doesn’t quite sell the other parts of his character. Covell’s screenplay doesn’t help lacking much definition of the character. Still the paranoia and desperation you’d expect from a character in this scenario falls out of Damici’s reach.
Blood Conscious Falls Short of Its Potential and Premise
After a promising start and a premise ripe with potential Blood Conscious meanders its way to an underwhelming conclusion. There’s interesting story threads here but Covell fails to follow through on his own ideas. Both the mystery around its ‘demons’ and the racial tensions feel forgotten. In spite of its shortcomings, Blood Conscious remains watchable from start to finish. Covell generates enough suspense from the story’s paranoia and Gbaje’s performance deserves attention.