Directed by Scooter Downey
Finding a good “creature feature” in independent horror is a difficult task. Frequently populated with low-budget abominations featuring poorly written archetypes performed by inexperienced actors uttering hackneyed dialogue, the creature feature rarely brings to the table anything new or exciting. Scooter Downey’s low-budget thriller It’s in the Blood, which he co-wrote with Sean Elliot, is an attempt to take a trope and relegate it to the background of what is essentially a familial drama about loss and reconciliation.
It’s in the Blood focuses on October, a med student with a photographic memory returning home to visit his father, Russell, after several years of being estranged, presumably due to the death of October’s adopted sister, Iris. Heading into the woods to reconnect, Russell breaks his leg in an accident, forcing the two to work together in order to survive not just the elements but the creatures that seemingly dwell within the mist that enshrouds the forest. .
Interspersed throughout are flashbacks that reveal the cause of their estrangement, introduced slowly to bring a level of depth heretofore unseen in most creature features. But as was said above, this film really isn’t about the creatures; it’s about the relationship, the unfortunate incidences in our past that invariably bring us closer to together. For October and Russell, it’s an unprovoked response to their unfortunate situation, exacerbated by visions of creatures lingering in the mist. Are they real? Or merely hallucinations brought about by their harrowing situation?
It’s here where Downey shines, providing little explanation for the creatures while putting the emphasis on the relationship between October and Russell. The creatures are relegated to the background, lingering in the fog as tall, thin apparitions that serve as little more than just another step between survival and death for the two. It’s incredibly creepy, giving a supernatural aesthetic to the creatures as their true form remain concealed by the fog; when they’re revealed, the effects are incredibly well done, belying the film’s low budget and giving to the film an almost dual nature. Downey seamlessly blends together aspects of the supernatural and creature features in a way that’s unique and visionary.
As a whole the performances are solid, if only a little hampered by some trite dialogue and reactions (screaming with emotion is always difficult to pull off in a believable way). As October, Elliot imbues in the character a sense of believability that makes his relationship with Russell, played by Lance Henriksen, all the more real as they attempt to reconcile. His character is laden with an incredibly violent and tumultuous past; yet, through it all October manages to put on a brave face and, quite incredibly, reconnect with his father under the most dire of circumstances. It is, in essence, a delayed coming-of-age story: the naive, troubled child of the gruff local sheriff forced to grow up as he and his father fight to survive. It never feels forced and always feels real.
The only real complaint with the film comes from its frenetic and often discombobulating direction and editing. It’s used to keep the reveal at bay and to instill a genuine sense of chaos in the viewer; it works and it doesn’t, with the outcome dependent entirely on the viewer.
It’s in the Blood brings more to the table in terms of originality, frights, and true emotion than most horror films. Despite its inherent lack of rewatchability – much of the suspense lies in the slow build-up and ultimate reveal – It’s in the Blood is one of the finest and most unique independent horror films in recent memory.
4 out of 5