Blood River DVD review

An effective horror thriller that favours steadily building tension over gross-out gore, the DVD release of Blood River leaves Dave both chilled and impressed…

Clark and Summer make the mistake of not picking up a psychopathic hitchhiker and God worshipping drifter, incurring his righteous anger as they end up in the town of Blood River.

The happy-go-lucky couple make gooey eyes at each other, profess their love and look forward to the upcoming birth of their child. Sadly, this bliss is halted when they have an accident in the middle of nowhere that causes them to abandon their car and their sickly sweet behaviour. Actually, the second they are out of their wrecked car, they start swearing and becoming irate with one another, probably rational behaviour given that Summer fears for her unborn child and someone has stolen the spare tyre.

Abandoning the car, they set out for the long journey to Blood River, hoping to be rescued, only to find that said destination is a bit on the abandoned side. It looks like it may have been that way for a while and things are looking grim. Thankfully, the drifter, Joseph, turns up and, despite his hospitable nature, he’s not best pleased.

Playing Clark and Summer off against each other, Joseph impresses Summer with his free spirit nature, whilst Clark remains guarded towards their new ‘friend.’ Realising they have to work together, Joseph and Clark set off to find petrol, leaving Summer behind to go slowly stir crazy and have a snoop around to see what else there is to do in Blood River.

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Of course, Joseph’s whole plan isn’t to just be mildly irritating. He’s on a mission from God and intends to do the right thing. He knows things about Clark and he’s intent on ensuring that justice will be done. With his cryptic messages, Joseph effectively destroys what exists between the couple by sowing the seeds of deceit and pushing each of them to the extremes of rational behaviour.

Halfway through the film, things take a strange turn as we see that Joseph isn’t the straightforward scripture-spouting lunatic we thought, and it’s in the second half that the film really picks up. When the cryptic messages don’t have the effect he seeks and with the pair discovering what he’s up to, Joseph steps up his plans and, as truths are revealed, the harmonious marriage finally dissolves and we end with destructive, yet righteous violence.

So, what we’ve got here starts as a psychological exploration into the strength of relationships, and the power of fear, before delving into the fine line between humanity and barbarism. The ending is astounding and will leave you longing for a sequel.

Blood River is a film with three key characters, Clark, Summer, and Joseph the Drifter, and this is where the whole thing can stand tall or fall flat. Andrew Howard is intense as Joseph, delivering ranting speeches about society in one moment and then becoming calm and reasonable in the next.

Ian Duncan, as Clark, plays his role equally well, transforming from the perfect husband into a darker character, all for love. Initially, Tess Panzer’s Summer is annoying, falling into the clichéd pattern of crying, screaming, panicking, and it is only when presented with her husband’s brutality and Joseph’s revelations that she becomes a deeper character.

I’ll be honest. I expected this to descend into The Hitcher territory combined with elements of Saw or Hostel, or any of the many entries in the sub-genre of torture porn. What was delivered was a stunningly complex story with three fantastic performances that had depth and left me feeling rather chilled.

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Blood River is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


4 out of 5