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MOVIE REVIEW: Indie horror film “DRY BLOOD” is an ambitious but wasted opportunity

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 | Review

DRY BLOOD (2017)
Starring: Clint Carney, Jaymie Valentine, Kelton Jones
Directed by: Kelton Jones
Written by: Clint Carney
Epic Pictures (Dread Central Presents) Distribution

With a copyright of 2015, an IMDB date of 2017, a theatrical release note for 2018 and currently streaming on Vudu and Amazon, Kelton Jones’ haunted cabin/addiction relapse horror film seems to have something of a storied history. With other films like 2012’s RESOLUTION and (arguably) 2015’s POD treading similar ground of enforced isolation and mental imbalance, director-writer duo Kelton Jones and Clint Carney have gone for something a little simpler and more direct.

Brian Barnes (Carney) wakes up from a drug-binge induced blackout convinced that he needs to get sober, and heads up to his family’s isolated vacation cabin for some cold-turkey rehab, inviting former girlfriend Anna (Jaymie Valentine) to join him for support. He soon runs afoul of an aggressive, small town cop (Jones) who seems to have it out for him, and even more problems await as Brian begins having hallucinations of the walking dead and gruesome ghosts. Is he just undergoing the torments of drug withdrawal or trying to detox in a haunted cabin?

“…the horror imagery move from effective CREEPSHOW-like rotting spooks…to sadly indulgent & sadistic violence”

DRY BLOOD is an uneven film, which is unfortunate, because some of it works quite well. The basic set-up is good, augmenting the usual “questionable reality” of a ghost story scenario with a plausible, real-world underpinning for grotesque and disturbing visions, with the passive-aggressive pressure from small-town police officer adding another level of paranoia (is the lawman just screwing with Brian?). Add in a mid-story revelation that Brian may have a history of schizophrenia preceding his addictions and you’ve laid some solid groundwork.

But the film betrays its indie limitations in that almost every aspect is unbalanced. The acting by Carney and co-star Jayme Valentine turns on a dime from (at least) adequate to amateurish, the directing is at turns flat and involving, the music runs the gamut from effective (the powerful “kitchen face-off” scene is underscored with a very John Carpenter-ish piece) to obvious (the overly ominous first meeting with the cop), even the horror imagery move from effective CREEPSHOW-like rotting or headless spooks and mind-bending visions (a man with a deer’s head), to sadly indulgent and sadistic violence.

Is anything that Brian sees real?

There is enjoyment to be gained from the effective first half of the film – and perhaps those more indulgent will forgive an ending that sacrifices audience goodwill generated by the main character’s very human dilemma and trades it for jerk-you-around reality twists and indulgent violence before wrapping up with an almost smirking, circular ending. Which, as I said, is kind of a shame, because some parts of DRY BLOOD (that kitchen scene, the “figure in the corner” and “woman in the closet) are quite good. It almost seems as the film wanted to be too many things, when it should have settled for just being one. But such is the way of the modern world.

Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.