Californian, recently-wedded couple, Clark (Ian Duncan) and Summer (Tess Panzer) are driving along a long, lonely stretch of the Nevada highway to visit Summer’s parents. On the way, they pass hitchhiker, Joseph (Andrew Howard), but ignore him as they make their way to a deserted motel for an overnight stay. Whilst the couple bed down for the night, drifter Joseph, who, rather oddly, had arrived before them, has availed himself of the overnight companionship of the manager (Sarah Essex) and whispering a mish-mash of Old Testament and preached warnings culled from John the Baptist in her ear. Come morning, as Clark and Summer depart, Joseph can be seen washing his bloodied hands; “Everything happens for a reason” he says, as the camera settles on his weeping victim whose razor slashed body, complete with carved cross on her temple, lies in the bath, slashing away at her own wrists in agreement with his warped Biblical prophesising.
Out on the highway, fifty miles away, Clark and Summer’s car suffers a blowout, and discover their spare tyre missing from the boot. Bloodied, and drained by the scorching heat, they make their way on foot and eventually come across Blood River, a small ghost town, in the middle of nowhere. As the couple contemplate their options, drifter Joseph turns up, and immediately strikes up a friendship with Summer who is beguiled by his strange manner.
From here proceedings take on an even heavier aura of mysticism as Clark slowly reveals a darker side to himself, and Joseph manipulates proceedings to get closer to Summer. In a series of clever twists, confrontations and dialogues allegiances switch as the philosophical ambiguities of good and evil, fate and faith, violence, retribution and redemption push the film to a clever if ambiguous conclusion.
Filmed on a shoestring, director Adam Mason makes full use of the minimal locale and expert lens of cinematographer, Stuart Brereton (Doctor Who, Torchwood) to deliver a tightly crafted film, utilising themes from THE HITCHER and TIMEKEEPER that delivers in terms of visual quality with performances to match. The one thing this psychological thriller lacks is suspense, as, despite several outbreaks of violence bordering on torture porn, we feel little for the characters. Nevertheless BLOOD RIVER remains an independent trip to the darkside that’s well worth a ride.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Adam Mason
English language / USA / 2009 / 99 Mins / Colour / Rated 18
Region 2 / PAL
EXTRAS = unknown as we received just the screener
A revolver Entertainment DVD release
Region 2 DVD (UK)
Release date July 19th, 2010