BLOODTHIRSTY *** Canada 2020 Dir: Amelia Moses. 84 mins
Singer songwriter and co-screenwriter Lowell was inspired by her own (presumably non-lycanthropic) experiences to write this Alberta-shot character-driven horror picture for BLEED WITH ME director Amelia Moses. A vegan since childhood, singer-songwriter Grey (Lauren Beatty) is struggling for inspiration as she embarks upon her second album, while dodging probing media questions about her relationship with painter-girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So). Her doctor (Michael Ironside in a two-scene sitting-at-a-desk cameo) has failed to resolve her issues with nightmares and hallucinations in which she envisions herself transforming into a feral beast and feasting off woodland animals. She deals with creative anxiety by taking Charlie to the refuge of enigmatic, controversial music producer Vaughn (Greg Bryk) at his remote, ancestral home – where he aids with her musical woes and seems to sense in her something animalistic he can relate to.
Moses flirts with genre cliché (the inevitable roadkill moment en route to the protagonists’ destination, disposable secondary characters) but offers an unpatronising, convincing portrait of a same-sex relationship. It pivots around a fine performance from Beatty as the angsty songwriter perturbed by her sudden craving for meat and indulging in the “green fairy” with a much more experienced music biz veteran haunted by his own demons. There are moments of atmosphere, and Lowell’s original songs for Grey are genuinely catchy despite the on-the-nose lyrics (“God is a Fascist. And he holds all the cards”).
The build-up proves the strongest half of the movie, with the tension ebbing a tad in the latter stages thanks to soap opera plot twists, a disappointing sidelining of King So’s appealing character and a heavy handed / goofy climactic speech from a key character: “It’s not your fault…werewolves do terrible things, it’s our nature”. Kudos to all concerned for striving to make a smart take on one of the genre’s oldest monsters, though you may well wish they’d had the budget to go for a full-blown werewolf remake of A STAR IS BORN, complete with Grey ripping apart Kanye West and Billie Eilish live on stage while accepting a Grammy. That said, the refreshingly old-school, all-practical werewolf transformation is a treat.
Review by Steven West