Blood And Bone China review

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Review Sarah Dobbs 12 Oct 2012 - 07:04

Sarah checks out the low-budget yet brilliant horror adventure, Blood And Bone China…

It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely vampire slayer than Blood And Bone China’s Newlyn Howell. A Victorian vet (and part time taxidermist) living in rural Derbyshire, the scariest thing he has to deal with on a daily basis is a spoiled terrier. But when Newlyn’s older brother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, he’s forced to investigate, and soon finds himself up to his neck in bloodsuckers.

Inspired by a bizarre true story about a vampire-related death that happened back in the 1970s, Blood And Bone China is a fresh and fun take on vampire mythology. The setting alone makes it original: we’re used to our Victorian vamps stalking their victims through the gas-lit streets of London, not hanging out in china factories in Stoke-on-Trent. Director Chris Stone is from Stoke, though, and deftly incorporates elements of the town’s heritage into his movie – even filming in museums and other period-appropriate locations – to create a real sense of place, and of history.

But that’s far from the only thing that sets Blood And Bone China apart from the zillions of other low budget vampire movies out there. It’s really well written, for starters. Although it was originally filmed as a 12-part web series and only later edited into a full feature, it’s well-structured and satisfyingly paced. (The only trace of its online serial origins is in the marginally too long fade-outs between some scenes, and a slight tendency to over-recap the plot so far, but otherwise, you’d never know.)

The characters are all great, too. Newlyn himself is endearingly inept, a proper reluctant hero who needs a hell of a nudge to get into fighting mode; Anna Fitzgerald, the headstrong local reporter, is a great female lead; and even Linus Hemlock, the villain of the piece, is fleshed out and given a sizeable chunk of backstory and motivation. It helps that the acting is so strong, too; Anthony Miles, in particular, does a sterling job of really selling his character’s neuroses and foibles without ever really losing the audience’s sympathy. Although everyone in the film is clearly pretty talented, Miles’s lead performance stands out.

For a film of this scale, it’s amazingly slick-looking. The production design is fantastic; it’s clear that a lot of care and attention has gone into every shot of the film, and it pays off. The whole thing looks great, from the costume design to the set dressing to the cinematography – there’s some inventive use of light and shadow, and though the film can’t entirely hide its micro-budget, it does have a really bloody good go.

And it’s fun. Maybe the best word to describe it is ‘romp’: despite the horror movie trappings, it’s an adventure movie. There’s a real sense of humour here, though not in a cruel way; it’s just a really enjoyable watch. To cap it all off, the film ends with a blatant bit of sequel bait - but it looks so much fun you’ll find yourself really hoping they’ll get to make that sequel.

On the evidence of this film, Chris Stone and his crew are going to do something incredible. Watching Blood And Bone China, it’s hard not to feel excited, like maybe you’ve just discovered something remarkable.

You can find out more about Blood And Bone China here. Our interview with director Chris Stone can be found here.

This is the first film we're covering as part of our drive to find interesting indie films. You can find more on that here.

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