Release Date(s)2019 (January 15, 2019)
Studio(s)Epic Pictures (Dread Central Presents)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
There’s quite a spectrum of low budget horror these days, from the totally inept to the obviously talented. Dry Blood, the product of relative newcomers Kelton Jones and Clint Carney, falls into the latter category. In a seemingly familiar tale, a young man named Brian is trying to kick his addiction to drugs and alcohol by holing himself up in a cabin in the woods, complete with a nosey, oddball sheriff and a lady friend who has come to help him see it through. Brian quickly begins to hallucinate nightmarish imagery of ghostly and potentially murderous dead people, but are they the product of his drying out or is there something more dangerous at work?
Upon first glance, Dry Blood may seem like a run of the mill horror film. Indeed it has a few flaws, but they’re minor compared to the positives. You have to forgive its low budget nature and simply try to soak into it. It’s not a slick Hollywood film with tons of money thrown at it, but manages to be quite stylish regardless. In a lot of ways, it’s highly Lynchian, even throwing in a bit of humor without spoiling the overall aesthetic. It also employs the simplest of tricks that are subtle but effective. Getting a sense of what Brian is going through is achieved by slightly warping the frame, but also layering shots with specific lenses on top of each other to achieve disorientation, and it works great. There are even nods to films like The Shining and Ghost Story – some obvious, some not so much.
Most might attack it outright for its performances, which I also feel is a slight detriment, particularly the female lead (Jaymie Valentine). However, I also blame the dialogue as it tends to repeat ideas over and over again without any growth, which to some degree, is certainly how it would be dealing with someone who is trying to get clean, but it’s not a good enough excuse. Clint Carney as Brian does pretty good work, especially in the latter half of the film when things really heat up, while Rob Galluzzo steals the movie whenever he appears for a few light yucks. However, it’s Kelton Jones as the sheriff whose seemingly weird and untrustworthy presence gets under your skin fairly early on, harassing Brian over and over again throughout the film.
I also found the use of score in certain areas to be a little unnecessary, or if anything, a bit too pronounced. It sometimes ruins the atmosphere by being overly bombastic, whereas the film is far better served by utilizing silence and low droning sounds, at least for the most part. This is also a story that you can only experience fresh one time. Once you know the ending, which is incredibly brutal and disturbing, rewatching it means noticing things you didn’t pick up on or didn’t fully understand the first time through (which is kind of rewarding in and of itself).
To sum up, Dry Blood has its share of positives and negatives, but there’s enough good in it to keep you interested all the way through. It’s also likely to be a story that not a lot of people are going to understand initially when it gets complicated towards the end, which is understandable. You definitely have to give it some thought once it’s over, but that’s one of its better qualities – it sticks with you. Jones and Carney seem to have an understanding of letting an audience figure things out for themselves rather than telegraphing it to them beat for beat, which is preferable.
The Blu-ray presentation of Dry Blood is a solid high definition viewing experience. Because of its low budget limitations, it isn’t always going to look like a million dollar film, particularly when it comes to some of its night shots which aren’t all that convincing. That said, this is a decent digitally-sourced transfer with a good balance of color and detail. The former mixes it up from time to time, as the film emphasizes certain hues for effect, while the latter soaks up some of the outdoor locations, as well as interiors. Everything is bright and well-defined without any major defects, aside from a couple of shots at night that were artificially brightened, revealing artifacts in the frame. All in all though, this presentation does the film justice.
The audio is presented in both English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital with optional subtitles in English SDH or Spanish. I personally feel that the movie’s low key (and low budget) sound design doesn’t fully require a surround sound experience. However, it does give many of its aural facets plenty of breathing room. Dialogue is discernable at all times, while sound effects and score dominate the rest of the track without distorting. The stereo track is probably a more ideal listening experience, but either option is fine.
Extras include an audio commentary with Kelton Jones and Clint Carney, which is fairly lively and provides plenty of information about certain scenes as they occur – although they tend to forget that they’re recording a commentary and go quiet a few times. Also featured is Remember Not to Kill: The Making of Dry Blood, a very good 35-minute making-of documentary featuring Kelton Jones, Rob Galluzzo, Clint Carney, Jaymie Valentine, and special effects artists Sioux Siclair and Chad Angel. There’s also a teaser and full trailer for the film, as well as reversible artwork.
Dread Central Presents’ presentation of Dry Blood is certainly worth a horror fan’s time, especially for those who are bored to tears with films reliant on jump scares and want nothing more than a slow-burn story that continuously builds to a shocking climax. Dry Blood is certainly that, and with a nice set of extras by its side, it makes for a satisfactory Blu-ray package. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons