Judge Brett Cullum usually has kinky visions during the day, but has yet to have visions while being kinky.
It's not unnatural…it's supernatural.
Cassidy Clarke (Tyler Hanes, a Broadway actor known for his stint in the revival of A Chorus Line) is a popular college jock who's in the closet as both a homosexual and a psychic. Seems whenever Cassidy gets unexpectedly excited by another man, he has flashes of his sister (James Katharine Flynn, Orphans) covered in blood and screaming for help. Accompanying these visions are intense nose bleeds that would likely kill the moment once he decides to take a partner. He's going to school at a big city campus where random pretty blonde girls are getting murdered, and his sister might be the next victim. The catch is this: he has to go all the way with a guy to see a clear premonition. Will Cassidy take the advice of his bug-eyed new-age hippie aunt (Alison Fraser, a Broadway veteran), and get together with a Latino hustler (Carlos Alberto Valencia, bit player in Carlito's Way) to deflower himself and save his sibling?
In the Blood pays sincere homage to Brian DePalma and John Carpenter's '70s work, and it also takes the typical GLBT "coming out story" and marries it with "supernatural thriller." It throws together references from Carrie, Klute, Cruising, and even a touch of Assault on Precinct 13 to create a modern film that often feels like it should have been released three decades ago. Given the sex and the brother and sister angle, there's more than a little bit of Paul Schrader's Cat People in there as well. It's total camp in a strange way, and even more so since the filmmakers and actors took everything deadly serious no matter how far out the plot or script wanders. I found the film enjoyable and engaging, but there's no mistaking the low-budget film school aura that surrounds every scene. Shot on location with the blessings of the Columbia film school, the movie was filmed in 19 days on a shoestring using dorms and campus locations as sets. Some viewers may have caught this one either at a gay film festival or on cable as a pay-per-view through Logo.
This one's enjoyable since it blends two incongruous genres and somehow makes it all work far better than I expected. Although some of the supernatural elements are unintentionally funny, In the Blood comes together thanks to a committed cast and skilled crew. It looks much better than it should, and most of the acting rises to the occasion and allows us to believe in the characters no matter how loopy things get. This is one of those first movies everyone gets passionate about on the set, and their commitment pays off. Composer Sasha Gordon does a brilliant job nailing the DePalma symphonic score during many sequences. I can honestly say I was entertained, and there is an edge of your seat quality that can't be denied. There is a nice '70s pace and flavor that reminded me a great deal of The Fury with the psychic aspects, and a sense of the same exploitation of sex and murder you could find in Dressed to Kill. This is signature DePalma style turned homoerotic and low budget, and that's worth a look in my book.
The film is far from perfect, and there are times when you are reminded that this is a first-time director paired with a first-time producer using film school techniques on their college campus. Some people are going to find the ending rushed, and that's one of the biggest problems when you evaluate the film critically. In the Blood spends a great deal of time promising a huge payoff in the murder mystery and final confrontation, and then rushes through it all haphazardly in the closing moments. Another problem is that there is a troubling self-loathing to the gay character that could rattle sensitive GLBT viewers, and everything doesn't exactly resolve happily in that department. Others hoping for a lot of salacious eye candy and male nudity might be disappointed since the film concentrates more on the plot than the male on male sexuality.
TLA does a fine job with the DVD presentation, and the company gives enough to make the DVD experience pleasant. Visuals are a nice widescreen transfer that look fine given the low budget. The sound mix is a hearty surround that serves the thriller aspects well with some nice surrounds when things get spooky. Extras include an extended alternate opening and a chatty commentary with the writer/director Lou Peterson (Shifting the Canvas) and producer Sean Cassity (Para-Normal). The commentary is frank, and they discuss what they see as strengths and shortcomings candidly throughout the congenial track.
I have to give props and kudos to the filmmakers for trying something daring, unique, and not at all safe. In the Blood never completely overcomes a low budget or loopy idea about sex and psychics, but it does manage to entertain in that guilty pleasure way like the '70s thrillers it emulates. The cast and crew make it far more believable than you'd ever expect. TLA Releasing gives the film a well-done DVD release, and it's worth checking out or buying if it sounds like your type of gay horror movie.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
• Commentary by Writer/Director Lou Peterson and Producer Sean Cassity
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