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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Bloodthirsty (2020)

My notes on Bloodthirsty (2020).

Director Amelia Moses made two films back-to-back in 2020 – both with star Lauren Beatty, a central relationship triangle, and snowy Canadian woodland settings – that cover two basic monster types.  Bleed With Me was her vampire movie, so Bloodthirsty has to be her werewolf film, even if the titles could have been switched.  The films mirror each other: in Bleed With Me, Beatty’s character focuses on her female friend/prey to the annoyance of her boyfriend; in Bloodletting, the star plays Grey – a singer/songwriter who is suffering difficult second album syndrome – who becomes estranged from her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) as she falls under the influence of sinister, reclusive record producer Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk).  At his remote home/recording studio, Vaughn sets out to break down various pillars of her identity (starting with her veganism — by offering a slice of steak) to get her to realise her potential as an artist … but, also, perhaps as a monster.

Grey takes medication to suppress disturbing dreams of becoming a ravening animal with extended nails and alarmingly large eyes.  Vaughn seems to believe she has to accept her predator status if she’s going to finish her album.  There’s a darkly humorous undertone to the notion that Grey will have to be a She-Wolf to get ahead in show business, but the film shies away from her commercial status to get into her psyche.  Bryk, perhaps riffing on his role as an alpha werewolf in the TV series Bitten, plays Vaughn – named for the character in Crash? – as an unusual, soft-spoken menace.  His backstory has a few Phil Spector elements – he’s been acquitted of the murder of a previous protégé – but, again, the film shies away from tabloid stuff in favour of fairy tale Freud.

Screenwriter Lowell (who co-wrote with producer Wendy Hill-Tout) is also a singer-songwriter, and Bloodthirsty pulls off the very difficult trick of presenting a believable studio artistic process and songs that sound as if they could be hits (the theme, ‘Bloodthirsty’, is excellent).  Like Bleed With Me, its genre elements are obliquely treated but not thrown away by a psychological cop-out … there’s a real, hairy, clawed beast in this forest.  We also get such staples as the unhelpful therapist (Michael Ironside) and the sinister housekeeper (Judith Buchan) and Moses has a knack for shooting disturbing material in dark woods.

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