By SHAWN MACOMBER
Starring Seann William Scott, Mariela Garriga and Dale Dickey
Directed by Henry Jacobson
Written by Avra Fox-Lerner, Henry Jacobson and Will Honley
If you’ve heard anything about BLOODLINE since it began its festival run a year ago, it’s almost certainly that the lead character played by Seann William Scott shares no small percentage of DNA with a certain retired Miami PD blood-spatter technician. And it’s true. The first critic who can review this harrowing and engaging flick without referencing DEXTER—or Stifler—should get some sort of writing award. (I guess I’m disqualified now…)
Here’s another thing that’s true: If one is not a purist, there’s plenty of worthwhile pleasure to be found in a smart, deft variation on a theme. (As you will see, I have come to praise scripters Avra Fox-Lerner, Henry Jacobson—who also directed—and Will Honley, not to bury them.) The key is—no pun intended—the execution. And on this criteria, BLOODLINE—pun intended—kills.
For critics of the much-maligned DEXTER finale, BLOODLINE provides something of an alternative reality/timeline: What if Dexter had gone on to become a high-school guidance counselor rather than a…lumberjack? What if he used that position to root out genuinely evil and abusive individuals upon whom to justifiably unleash his bloodlust? What if his newborn baby won’t stop crying at night and he can’t think straight? What if his desire to slaughter got ahead of his “code” meant to control it? What if, like his old detective colleagues, his young charges baffled him by failing to see his murders in a righteous light? What if the guy who likes to tie up his victims finds himself restrained by powerful metaphorical ropes?
The answer? Less plastic wrap, but the same blades, lectures and a very similar amount of visceral liberation.
Beyond the foundational similarities—the need to kill channeled through warped moralistic preening; an ostentatiously sociopathic personality; deep familial darkness; parenthood as salvation and trigger—BLOODLINE brings several other interesting elements to the mix. There is, for example, the shades-of-PSYCHO relationship between Evan and his mother, portrayed by the wonderful Dale Dickey (TRUE BLOOD), and his diligent-yet-failed attempts to make a human connection with his beautiful wife Lauren (Mariela Garriga from NIGHTMARE CINEMA). There’s also the sleek electronica-based score by Trevor Gureckis and sleek, stylish cinematography by Isaac Bauman. As director, Henry Jacobson conducts the whole affair with a sure hand, perfectly happy to constantly seek the balance between grittiness and transcendence.
And then you’ve got Scott, in a bit of wildly successful counterintuitive serial-killer casting. That’s right, the dude from goofball flicks like AMERICAN PIE, ROAD TRIP and DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? has it in him to be utterly terrifying. This is an ultraviolent, unflinching, gore-festooned film, and Scott not only sells that end of it in a major way, but also does a fantastic job of channeling the strange, volatile stress of navigating life after the birth of a first child. Oh, and the smart, brutal twist Jacobson and his co-writers cooked up for the film’s end is magnificent, devastating stuff that is going to stick with you for a while.
To paraphrase Twain, like history, BLOODLINE doesn’t repeat its spiritual predecessors, but it sure as hell rhymes—and in interesting ways. If our therapeutic, legal and social institutions haven’t been able to cancel serial killers in the real world, can we really expect our cinematic universes to step away?