Stars: Rachel Corona, Laina Grendle, Lauren Myers, Heather Wilder | Written and Directed by Peter Grendle
I’m not sure where exactly to start when talking about Blood Soaked. I considered including a brief plot synopsis so that I could more freely associate with whatever other elements of the film I felt required more discussion. I thought about opening with my surprise that there was archive footage of Adolf Hitler in the opening credits. I even wondered if I’d be called out for bad criticism form for considering just second-screening the rest of the movie ten minutes in.
But really, I can’t talk about anything in Blood Soaked before I talk about its technical limitations. And, really, “technical limitations” is a generous euphemism. The quality of filmmaking on show in much of the film is on par with the worst of what some of my classmates were doing in film school (and I didn’t even go to a good film school). The entire first scene, in which two young girls attempt to resuscitate their dying father using a syringe of a formula that we’ll later learn turns folks into zombies, is barely comprehensible due to a combination of epileptic camera movements and the monotonous screams of the two girls. Fortunately, the first issue is resolved fairly quickly. Unfortunately, sound problems plague the entirety of the film that follows.
Now, the screener I was given to review may not be the same version of the film that everyone else who’s seen it was subject to, but the fact that it was packaged and endorsed by the film’s distributor, Wild Eye Releasing, doesn’t give me much hope. The sound kept going slightly out of sync in the first ten minutes, with characters’ dialogue barely matching up with their mouths. I thought it was a problem with my browser, paused and unpaused the video repeatedly to try and fix the issue. But halfway through, I knew it definitely wasn’t me, as there was a chasm between onscreen actions and their accompanying sounds. Not only that, but the audio clearly wasn’t mixed to a standard level as I needed to keep changing the volume in order to hear the dialogue comfortably. These kind of problem makes for a pretty unwatchable film, in my opinion. It’s hard to know whether the movie I watched was the one its creators intended to make or simply the result of a series of cock-ups at every stage. From what I could gather from this muddled vantage point, Blood Soaked is full of thinly-drawn characters, near-comedy violence perpetrated for the sake of the most basic social commentary imaginable and a fatal lack of tension.
It may seem like I’m picking at relatively unimportant threads, but let’s be serious here: when we’re being entertained, there’s a baseline of quality we expect, even with low-budget grindhouse fare such as this. The fact that Blood Soaked couldn’t live up to even my lowest expectations of a no-budget slasher should set off alarm bells to anyone. And are we really okay with being presented with frankly amateurish fare like this and being told it’s good enough to be on our shelves? I don’t mean to come off as elitist – I’ve worked on my fair share of micro-budget productions, and I have no delusions about their quality – but I’m afraid that with the current wave of independent films, self-distribution and a move away from studio-controlled properties that there’s no clear indicator of the watermark for movies like this any more. I want films to be good, and I’m not inclined to let one get away with being far less than that just because it was independently produced, because indie filmmakers have more to prove, not less.
All of which is to say that Blood Soaked isn’t deserving enough for a proper critique as it’s not really a proper film. I couldn’t tell you who to blame – though the director, production company and distributor would probably all be good bets as they’re all responsible for letting such a shoddy product work its way into my eyes and ears – but whoever’s responsible needs to start trying a hell of a lot harder if they want people to start treating their movies like movies.