A mother does everything she can to save her son after the boy is turned into a bloodthirsty monster in the unimaginatively-titled Blood, which is now available for rent or purchase on Prime Video, Apple TV+, and other streaming services.
Fluid direction courtesy of Brad Anderson and a committed central performance from Michelle Monaghan is almost – but not quite – enough to save Blood’s underdeveloped screenplay. Still, horror fans could do far worse than this realistic, refreshingly ambiguous take on familiar vampire mythology.
Monaghan stars as Jess, a recovering addict who moves her children Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) and Tyler (Skylar Morgan Jones) into her family farmhouse in the countryside after divorcing from their father Patrick (Skeet Ulrich, in a strong supporting performance).
The kids aren’t especially down with the move, and things only get worse when they stumble across a mysterious dead tree in the middle of a mud-filled clearing. Owen’s labrador Pippin later runs away, presumably heading towards the strange tree, and later comes back with an evil glint in his eyes and a taste for human flesh.
In Blood’s most disturbing scene, Pippin attacks Owen while mom does everything she can to save the boy, including bashing the poor dog’s head in with a porcelain bowl. Most films tend to shy away from on-screen graphic violence against animals, giving this sequence some genuine shock value.
Most viewers will be able to guess where Blood is headed from here: Owen has now the vampire virus, and now the boy thirsts for human plasma, waking up in the hospital to chow down on some blood bags. But you may not be able to predict the gruesome lengths that Jess is willing to go to save her vampire son.
Blood is a little more than your average vampire story: it’s also a parable about the effects of divorce on children, and the sacrifices made by single mothers who have to raise their children on their own.
If only there was something else going on here. There’s so little outside of the main story thread in Blood’s screenplay, credited to Will Honley, that things begin to drag during the second half once we know exactly where the movie is going. Despite the poor decisions made by Jess, Blood is careful never to go over-the-top or turn unrealistic.
The craftsmanship that went into Blood’s production, meanwhile, is entirely first-rate, with moody cinematography from Björn Charpentier and terrific performances across the board. Monaghan is especially empathetic as Jess, a difficult role that sees the character’s blood-drained lethargy mimic her previous addiction.
Director Brad Anderson has helmed films from a diverse array of genres, but has seen particular success with offbeat horror in films like The Machinist, Season 9, and the underrated Stoneheart Asylum. It’s a little disappointing, then, that despite a first-rate presentation Blood never really coagulates into something special.