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Case Number 08403

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Bloodline

Lionsgate // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 19th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson wishes his brother were a crazy axe-murderer while they were growing up. That way if he ever did anything wrong he could say: "Sure, mom, I may not have done the dishes, but at least I didn't kill a bunch of kids with a hatchet."

The Charge

Like Rain Man, with bloody hatchets.

Opening Statement

This small horror film details the bloody misadventures of two brothers, their roles in a campsite slaughter, and the individual futures that follow—or does it?

Facts of the Case

Meet brothers Travis (Clay Adams) and Henry (Josh Gibson). Travis is perceivably all-around normal kid, trying to meet girls and live a functional life as a 23-year-old. His little brother Henry is…different.

When the two went camping one night, the hidden natures of the brothers revealed themselves in violent fashion. Murder raged through the woods as everyone except for Travis and Henry was brutally murdered. Travis came away clean, as it is clear Henry was the one behind the axe murders. He escaped.

Back to the present, Travis is struggling to shed his reputation of a murderer (everyone in town considers it too suspicious that he and his brother weren't in on the slayings together) and moves away to re-plug into another social pipeline. In his new digs, he meets the lovely Lori (Aya Sumika), and the two immediately kick off a romance. Meanwhile, Travis has holed up with a mysterious recluse, who agrees to shelter him. Travis takes up a quiet life of chopping wood and acting creepy.

But the two can't escape their past. When paranoia sets in for Travis, who suspects Lori might be knocking boots with his friend, his violent past will come back to haunt him. And that's not the only thing coming back: Henry returns seeking to confront his brother about the truth behind the camp murders.

But the real truth will prove to be even more twisted than you know.

The Evidence

Bloodline seemed to have the pedigree of yet another forgettable low-budget horror knock-off courtesy of Lions Gate, but it proved to be an interesting, stylish, though too convoluted-for-its-own-good exercise in suspense and plot twists.

The crux of this film is the onslaught of narrative sleights-of-hand Keith Coulouris and David Schrader, the writers and directors of the film, throw at you. Just when you think you might have the plot nailed and the characters figured out, they unleash another barrage of twists. I found this aspect both rewarding and irritating.

It's rewarding because, face it, it's always fun to be taken for a Tilt-a-whirl ride with movies. With the onset of M. Night Shyamalan's twist-fests, these surprise endings may have become a bit too fruitful, but these guys do a good job of keeping things crazy and unknown right to the very end. The twists really do come out of left field, so don't expect to have this thing figured out. But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that, while it was fun for little while, looking back there was just way too much going at the end, leading to a real feeling of unneeded complexity and a too-long denouement.

Basically, I thought Coulouris and Schrader went overboard in trying to be too clever.

But that gripe aside, Bloodline really isn't that bad a film. The acting is solid and the story, for all of its complexities toward the end, is engaging. Horror fans and gore hounds alike will likely get a kick out of it, as there is plenty of blood and guts and, if you're lucky, maybe some flecks of brain matter! The directors have given their film a nice, slick look, too, using interesting camera angles and garnering a few nice, creepy shots (the camp slaughter aftermath, the various reveals at the end, etc.).

Overall, this is a well-performed and generally well-executed little horror film that suffers merely from too many fireworks at the end.

The digital stock the movie was shot in lends it a professional look, and the 1.78:1 letterbox format (non-anamorphic) looks just fine. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is a nice addition, though fairly subdued. Schrader and Coulouris put on a solid commentary filled with all the necessary insight into the process and a behind the scene feature relies primarily on screen tests for the actors. A photo gallery and trailers round out the extras.

Closing Statement

I was pleasantly surprised by this inventive horror film. The blood and guts is there, but the directors weren't content to replicate formula and instead aim for a more layered, complex story, relying on major reveals at the end for the payoff. Unfortunately, they fell a few degrees shy of the bulls-eye. Still, a moderately cool flick.

The Verdict

Not guilty. I have nothing humorous to say.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genre:
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Directors' Commentary
• Behind the Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb








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