The sun beats down on dry, barren desert somewhere in the US. It’s a lifeless place with just one road, some sand, the odd bush and even more sand.
As Summer and Clark, a young couple, drive through the area en route to see Summer’s family, they have the misfortune to run into a man who is set to change their lives forever.
Blood River is surprisingly watchable. Initially looking like another ‘lost in redneck country’ survival movie, it lowers the guard of the audience as they prepare for more of the same.
But the hitchhiker, Joseph isn’t just a mindless murderer. He has motives behind what he does, and in fact he might not be crazy at all. After being subjected to an hour or so of unrelenting heat and arid desert (on screen), you’re likely to be just as confused and scared as Summer and Clark.
Many western style horror staples are used: The rusty, decaying ghost town; the run down motel; the long, quiet straight roads; and the mysterious stranger in a cowboy hat who likes to sip bourbon and spit a lot.
Less common for westerns is the use of household tools as torture devices. But thankfully they aren’t utilised to the level that we have grown accustomed to (torture porn). In Blood River, this element is used to good effect – sparingly.
And it’s shot well. Something about the colours, the setting and the angles means that you could be sitting in an air conditioned room and still feel the heat… And thirst… Not to mention the uncertainty and general fear for Summer, Clark and their unborn child.
Who is this mysterious loon in the ten gallon hat who keeps quoting bible passages? And if he wants to hurt them, why doesn’t he do it already?!
There isn’t a great deal of violence, there isn’t too much blood and it’s mainly the tension, torment and intriguing dialogue that draw you in. Joseph, the self proclaimed angel of mercy is more intent on getting into your head than cutting out your liver and eating it with some fava beans.
What is most unexpected and enjoyable about Blood River is its supernatural aspect. You’re soon left wondering who is real and who isn’t; who is good and who is evil (in the biblical sense). As the movie reaches its climax you won’t be sure who to trust and by the end, you may still not be any the wiser…
The acting is so so, with Clark (played by Ian Duncan) letting the side down a bit with his slightly overly enthusiastic wailing.
Fortunately Joseph (Andrew Howard), the preaching cowboy, is intriguing to watch and rolls on through the feature like a defiant tumbleweed.
For lovers of blood in the sand, rusty blades and six-shooters, Blood River provides an interesting escape from the usual storylines. Grab yourself a stiff drink, kick off your spurs and prepare for a gruelling experience.
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