Eye For Film >> Movies >> Blood Paradise (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Blood Paradise is a Marmite film, developed to appeal to a very particular sense of humour. If it hits the spot for you, you'll probably find it one of the funniest films you've seen all year (provided you can cope with a bit of gore). if it doesn't, you're likely to be left hopelessly confused as to what writer and director Andréa Winter and Patrick von Barkenberg thought they were doing.
Winter plays Robin, a mystery writer whose most recent book looks destined to be a flop. The half-hearted bondage scene we see at the start, fantasy interrupted by mundane concerns, seems to sum up her problems: she knows what she wants but she lacks inspiration and everything is falling short of the mark. When her publisher suggests that she go to stay on a small farm in Sweden where she can relax and get back to basics with her work, it seems like a good plan - but in the age-old tradition of stories about mystery writers, she proves unable to go anywhere without stumbling upon something suspicious.
In fact, there are so many suspicious things about this particular farm that it's difficult to know where to begin. Mobile phones not working is one thing, but phone lines being cut makes one wonder. Then there's the off-limits building from which strange noises emerge, the mysterious failure of her boyfriend to catch up with her as arranged, the fact that somebody keeps stealing her clothes and - something only the audience is privy to - that somebody is watching her through gun sights. The real mystery behind all this is obscured by layer upon layer of ostentatious character work, with every inhabitant of the area having a personality seemingly defined by quirks. There's the bumbling driver who seems to be obsessed with her, the silent farmer's wife who braids dolls' hair all day, the mysteriously angry farmer's son, and so on. Each scene brings some new quirky incident which often bears no relation whatsoever to the plot. Where one or two red herrings can add flavour to a plot, too many just make it smell bad.
In addition to this, the narrative structure of the film is somewhat flaky, so if you're not hooked by the comedy sketch element you'll find it difficult to stay engaged. Tighter editing would help, together with a willingness to cut back on gags that have played themselves out. There's some nice set design and that whole thing is beautifully shot, with lingering landscape shots recalling the European folk horror of the Seventies. Extensive nudity adds to that impression and between them these elements threaten to give the film real personality when it's not anxiously sabotaging itself.
Winter is a competent lead (as well as doing half the other jobs involved in production) and keeps Robin believable despite the absurdity around her - something that becomes all the more important as the film heads into more overt horror territory. The comedy and violence don't mesh very well and where it falters, it's the former that's harder to watch, so this part of the film is probably the least successful, but Winter keeps it centred and provides something of a last minute emotional arc. Overall, this film is a curious experiment that misses more often than it hits, but there's obvious talent behind it and one hopes that it will lead on to more successful endeavours.Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2019