Girl meets boy. Boy’s incestual family rapes girl. Girl becomes bound to boy through demon family blood. And horror fans are given yet another unoriginal film in which the rape of a woman is a major plot point, and the control over her by men the main theme. I’m not inherently against such ideas, as long as they’re original or have something interesting to say, but Bloodbound is neither…
…Written/directed by Richard LeMay (Dementia 13 remake), Bloodbound revolves around a cult-like family with unlimited power that must sacrifice four human lives, including one from their own bloodline, every 25 years or face the wrath of a heart-munching demon. Descending on a small town, the family targets three teen burglars, impregnating one of them, with the idea that the baby will be the sacrifice from their family. But when one member of the family, David (Ross Wellinger) decides he likes the mother to be, Kerry (Eden Brolin), teenage hormones begin to complicate things.
Now, I don’t want to be too harsh on LeMay and Bloodbound. There’s nothing wrong with rape in horror, since the genre is after all a reflection of our worst fears. But in this day and age, I’m over films which depict heroines as simple, helpless victims that take no action in the face of men trying to control them, and that’s exactly the case in Bloodbound. While Brolin does well in her role, I found it odd that, despite her situation, I rarely found myself rooting for her, or really anyone, for that matter. The problem is, Kerry’s situation is so dire, so impossibly certain, that she reserves to her fate early on and barely puts up a fight. Passive and emotionless halfway through the film, it seems as if Kerry is just waiting around to die, which doesn’t inspire the audience to care much. But I can’t blame her, either. With David and his family, LeMay introduces characters that are a little too powerful, with the ability to break someone in half at the snap of their fingers for example, that Kerry has no tools even with which to fight.
But it isn’t just Kerry. Bloodbound doesn’t contain a single likeable character. Kerry’s friends, Sean (Eric Nelsen) and Brian (Justin A. Davis), are just as useless, spending most of their time wandering through scenes or being unable to talk about what has happened to them, thanks to a spell cast by David’s family. Sean pulls off some “I figured out how to stop on the internet because Google” feat, but even he is an asshole that never much endears the audience. And then there’s David himself, the epitome of “fuckboys” everywhere, a man who has never actually loved anyone or had a friend outside of his family, and thinks it’s okay for him to manhandle Kerry whenever he feels, as if she’s property, yet acts like a hurt, misunderstanding puppy every time she turns him down. I guess that’s what growing up watching incestual orgies your whole life will do to a person. But am I supposed to feel sorry for him? The hell I will! To his credit, David is also the most interesting, as there is a complexity to his personality in wanting to love Kerry, but having no idea how. Unfortunately, this falls flat, because Bloodbound can’t seem to decide how it wants us to perceive David. On one hand, I get the sense that we’re supposed to feel for David and the odd situation his family has put him in with acting as Kerry’s fake boyfriend to keep up appearances while she’s pregnant. LeMay wants us to feel sympathetic towards him, and Wellinger is soft-spoken enough to achieve that, but at the same time, David is going around killing and grinning as he does it, relishing every second. Bloodbound wants us to think that this is hard on David, but it’s difficult to think so when he’s gleefully going around killing Kerry’s friends.
It would help if Bloodbound took the time to develop its characters and make them seem natural, but a major problem in the film is that so many scenes come off as undercooked or incomplete. Just when we think there should be more said or that a character may reveal more about themselves, Bloodbound cuts away to another random moment that may or may not contribute to furthering the story. This ends up contributing to a real lack of tension in the film. Instead of allowing moments to take a deep breath, Bloodbound consistently shoves them underwater before they’re ready to move on. Non-existent tension and passive characters mean that the audience isn’t allowed to live in the moment, limiting us to observers as reserved to the situation as Kerry is.
Not to sound like a broken record, but as much as I tried to get into Bloodbound, the character relationships, especially Kerry and David, just couldn’t do it for me. The bond between a woman forced into a relationship with a guy who doesn’t understand why she would be upset that his family has raped her, kidnapped her, and plans on feeding the souls of everyone she cares about to a monstrous demon, is exactly what you would expect: it’s hollow. And emotionless. There is a fascinating kernel of a story to play with here, with Kerry possibly suffering from symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome while also finding cunning ways to get the upper hand on her predicament, but Bloodbound never takes that as far as it should. Kerry spends most of her time waiting, month after month, for the baby to be born, and we feel as if we’re waiting along with her.
At the center of Bloodbound’s black, demon heart, there is a theme which comes close to making the film stand out, and that is the idea that this premise is essentially a woman’s worst nightmare. Think about it. Kerry is raped, unable to speak about what happened to her and therefore unable to get help for fear of death. Her rapist and his family are forcing her to keep the baby even though she wants to get rid of it, and, while I won’t spoil anything, we quickly learn that Kerry has zero options in trying to get rid of the child herself. Hell, Kerry doesn’t even have control of her own body when David sees fit, using his magic demon powers to freeze and contort her as he pleases. What Kerry goes through is extraordinarily dark, with the potential for a powerful statement, yet Bloodbound strikes out on every given opportunity. Rather than take a strong, feminist viewpoint, Kerry is instead reduced to a male-centric idea, using sex (her first time), in order to gain David’s trust. It reminds me of the mother in Last House on the Left blowing one of the men who killed her daughter to near completion before finally getting her vengeance. A man wouldn’t willingly fuck someone that he was utterly repulsed by with other choices available, and neither would a woman in a similar situation.
On a more positive note, Bloodbound succeeds in one important area, and that’s the horror. The characters may be stale. The premise may be about as original as a madman in a hockey mask. But Kerry’s situation is truly horrific, and once the film introduces the vicious demon which David’s family worships about an hour in, we see that LeMay has genuine skills in creating scares and some fun, limb-ripping gore. I only wish that we would’ve seen more of that, and less of David sulking.
Bloodbound is now available on VOD from Clay Epstein’s Film Mode Entertainment.
By Matt Konopka