After some deliberation, I genuinely think Blood Runs Cold might be a very subtle parody. A standard premise with any number of ways to go (people in isolated place + monster) slides along the ice to become staggeringly stupid.
The scenario in Blood Runs Cold is very vaguely sketched. Our protagonist, Winona, wants isolation for two weeks to do… Something. Write some music or a few poems maybe? We’re never really told. I suppose it’s not important.
Her manager rents her a house in a snowy wilderness near where she grew up, an unnamed place in a never-mentioned country. I understand that it’s easier to market a movie in English, but the Swedes in Sweden pretending to be Americans in America thing is weird and unconvincing. While in the town, Winona runs into an ex-boyfriend and some friends of his, and they go back to her place to hang out. Meanwhile, some guy with an axe is wandering about. Murderousness ensues.
Firstly, if this movie had a budget of $5000, it looks absolutely amazing. The lighting and cinematography are first class, the house is claustrophobic and creepy, the frozen landscape chills you through the screen. With this excellent atmosphere from the beginning, I was optimistic for the rest.
Comparison time: The first forty minutes or so of Jeepers Creepers is some of the best horror of the last fifteen years. No, seriously. It’s so good that as I was watching it for the first time, I didn’t notice the signs that it was flying downhill towards being awful until it had gotten really bad. I suppose I thought that if it could pull itself back up, the dodgier bits in the middle could be ignored. So similarly, while the first half hour of Blood Runs Cold wasn’t spectacular, the mood and creepiness let me overlook some questionable moments. One of the characters sees a man who really shouldn’t be there in an upstairs window, but he doesn’t feel like it’s worth mentioning. Same character later sees a trail of blood leading into the distance towards a man with an axe, seems only mildly concerned. At this point the realisation is growing.
I can tell you the exact moment it crossed the line to “are you serious?” territory. Winona comes downstairs in the morning, none of her friends are around. She walks into the living room, and along with the few glasses and empty beer bottles, there is an enormous blood stain covering half the floor. She reacts with mild shock. That shouldn’t be there! What do you do in this situation?
William Goldman wrote an analysis of the climactic scene in Chinatown explaining each character’s goal and motivation, and line-by-line how what they say and do moves them towards that goal. You can’t expect that from every movie, and particularly horror (sadly, in my opinion) has low expectations for character, but I cannot imagine the mind of the girl who sees this pool of blood, and cleans it up like, hey, that’s how get-togethers sometimes end, takes out the rubbish and goes about her day.
From there on it’s nonsense. We have Winona being chased around the house, crawling into rooms and secret lairs, with no apparent plans to actually escape; for all she knows, a perfectly functioning car is still sitting outside. There isn’t even a true sense of threat, as the actress can’t really convey fear, even when they go for the Blair Witch snot-dripping shot.
One of the most bizarre scenes is axe-monster hacking through a door in a really obvious this-worked-in-the-Shining moment, except the door isn’t locked or even fully closed. I hope the italics are getting across how ludicrous this really was. And the end. Oh the end, that was what pushed me into thinking this might all be a clever joke.
It’s a shame, really. With plot and characters that made any kind of sense, this could have been quite decent on look and mood alone.
As it stands, it would probably make a good drinking game for when characters make decisions that no actual human being would do.