Troma // 2007 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // April 13th, 2011
Can You Survive the Night?
All small towns have a local legend. In this case, it's the story of the Krupps, and their inability to have children. When Mrs. Krupp finally gets pregnant, a strange woman in white (a witch, more or less) appears and demands that both parents make a blood oath, burying a vial of their life fluid near their reclusive wilderness abode. Later, healthy twins are born. When the lady shows up seeking "compensation," the couple refuses and takes off, only to end up in a horrible car accident. One child survives unharmed. The other is horribly disfigured. Both are never seen again -- or found. Decades later, a parking couple are attacked by an axe wielding maniac. Soon, their friends are roaming the same area, trying to find the fabled location -- and perhaps, the pals and the identity of the killer. Of course, they end up spending the night in the sinister residence, discovering secrets about the supposed story as well as coming face to face with a huge, hulking murderer with menace and mayhem on its mind.
Blood Oath is one of the better independent horror films to come around in a long time. It doesn't take itself wholly seriously, but does remember that shocks and suspense are more important than laughs and lame genre references. Yes, there are a couple of performances that scream "amateur hour" and a last act confrontation that fails to deliver on its discussed promise, but for the most part, director David Buchert and his collaborator, writer David M. Smith, mine the best of movie macabre and come up with a winner. There are nice little flourishes here and there, including a wonderful flashback sequence where sparse, suggestive settings and set-ups give us period authenticity without breaking the budget. Similarly, the found locations (including a wonderfully gloomy house in the middle of a wooded nowhere) add a nice level sinister ambience to everything.
Buchert doesn't thwart tradition, however. He gives us several fetching young ladies (including B Scream icons Tiffany Shepis and Tina Krause) in various stages of undress and the blood flows freely and frequently. The F/X are not Tom Savini earth-shattering, but they get the job down with splatter efficiency. Throughout, Blood Oath is anchored by the decent work of the actors. Of course, there are at least two performers who can't quite seem to get their Method together. As the main narrative force, the guy who gives us all the information we need about the legend in lengthy pages of dialogue, one of our on-the-make males is just miserable when it comes to thespianism. He barely speaks above a whisper and always seems to be caught onscreen just moments after waking up. Similarly, one of our potential last girls goes with a Southern accent that sounds really strange -- considering no one else has such a speaking style. They are minor elements in a movie which otherwise plays fair with both its references (Sleepaway Camp, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and its own inventions.
In the past, Troma's titles could be a mixed bag of transfer issues, audio nightmares, and pointless self-promotion extras. While some things haven't changed (The Radiation March? Again? Really, Lloyd...), the move to CAV for its distribution has upped the tech spec polish quite a bit. The movie looks and sounds excellent, with a nice balance of colors in the 1.78:1 anamorphic image and a clarity of both sound and score with the Dolby Digital audio. While the disc can't compensate for low budget limitations here and there, this is a good looking -- and sounding -- film. As for added content, there is a revealing commentary, a nice behind the scenes, a walk through regarding the gore and make-up effects, and several trailers, outtakes, and other tidbits. Indeed, this is one of the rare instances where the feature supports the extras, and visa versa.
While not up to the level of other homemade horror films that can't help but make us smile and scream at the same time, Blood Oath is an otherwise effective bit of outsider terror. It just goes to show that effectiveness behind the lens can lead to an equal amount of entertainment value in front -- no matter the level of acting proficiency involved.
Not guilty. Quite good, actually.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated