Eye For Film >> Movies >> Nothing But The Blood (2020) Film Review
Nothing But The Blood
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Nothing can match the zeal of a convert - even when the conversion has been in the direction of a gentler and more nuanced form of religion. Sent to investigate a new sect whose preaching is rapidly taking hold of a small town community, young journalist Jessica (Rachel Hudson) is aggressive from the outset, still angry about her own religious past. One gets the feeling that this reflects the position of writer/director Daniel Tucker in a film which is so full of bitter emotion that narrative coherence falls by the wayside.
The sect in question is Emeth, a fundamentalist Christian church which, like many, takes the Bible very literally in some areas and cheerfully ignores it in others. Les Best plays the charismatic but bullying preacher at its head, one of few characters who really convinces, but for all the man's thunder he can't stop Jessica seducing one of his flock - Jordan O'Neal's Tom - who subsequently abandons the old tenets and moves in with her.
There's some effort here to explore the way that growing up with a strong set of beliefs can continue to distort a person's emotional responses years later, even after they've decided that those beliefs are irrational, but O'Neal's quiet performance is overwhelmed by Tucker's desire for melodrama. Rather than draw out the potential of this and other psychologically complex topics, he opts to keep upping the ante, eventually moving the story into horror territory by way of what feels like multiple condensed TV movies.
There's a lot of jumping around in time, though none of the characters seem - physically or mentally - to get any older. Pieces of character background are slotted in whenever they become convenient, with no attempt at build-up. Jessica has an abusive ex (Austin Lynn Hall) who eagerly immerses himself in the new religion, finding it convenient cover for his aggressive tendencies towards women (again, interesting territory that goes largely unexplored) and her best friend falls in love with him for no apparent reason other than that women do fall for abusers from time to time. The script concerns itself with issues rather than people so the human drama is never very convincing, nor very meaningful.
Do people do terrible things in the name of religion? Undoubtedly. The trouble is, everybody - including fundamentalists themselves - knows that, so it's not much to hang a film on. If you've recently left an extremist religious group yourself and you're full of anger about the things you were told or persuaded to do as part of it, you may find this film cathartic. If not, it doesn't have a lot to offer.
The parallels between religious cults and domestic abuse are its strongest aspect and Hudson is at least able to communicate the kind of fear that both can induce, especially as Jessica comes to feel that she'll never escape her past, but it's a one note performance with inadequate support. When the cruellest blow comes, she has nowhere to go, and neither does the story.Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2020