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Vol. 8, No. 5, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom

Adam Mason's

Adam Mason


reviewed by


Sylvain RichardSylvain Richard is a film critic at Arts & Opinion. He gave Blood River, which played at the 2009 Fantasia World Film Festival, 3.5 out of 4 stars. For the rest of his ratings, click HERE.

The morality tale has been a part of story telling since stories were first told. Human nature is such that wecannot help but enjoy watching others struggle with good and evil, sexual temptation and the unrestricted exercise of power. Witnessing others fall from great distinction into disgrace is particularly satisfying, but no less so than vicariously participating in an undeserving victim's decision to takerevenge on an evil doer -- on the high road to redemption. What distinguishes the good morality tale from the banal is its refusal to indulge the simple good and evil binary, and its wise concession to the understanding that all compelling stories are best told through meticulous character development.

Blood River played to the highest praises at Montreal’s now world famous Fantasia Film Festival. It tells of a happy and attractive couple, Clark and Summer, played by Ian Duncan and Tess Panzer (wife is pregnant) driving through desert when their car flips. They are seriously hurt, miles away from help, and have to deal with a heat and dryness that is almost Biblical in its intensity, until they manage to come upon a near ghost town called Blood River, where they meet up with the mysterious hitchhiker Joseph, brilliantly played by Andrew Howard, who claims he’s a messenger of God, doing God’s will. Clark and Summer think they are saved from near death only to discover that Joseph isn’t what he first appears to be: a friend offering help. Through a series of masterful strokes, the veneer of mystery and evil that initially invested Joseph begins to wear thin, as does the consummate good we assign to Clark and Summer.

Joseph seems to know all about them, and gradually fleshes out their fears, suspicions and paranoias. We discover that Clark has kept an important aspect of his past from Summer, and that like Joseph, he isn’t all that he seems. As these finely wrought, albeit twisted characters become more known to us, we can’t help suspecting that they will be unable to avoid their destiny, that a happy ending isn’t in script, that God, wearing Joseph’s robe, will not be necessarily sympathetic when it comes to rendering judgment -- and he shall entertain no qualms in letting flow the life sustenance of his favourite creation: the eternally damned descendents of Adam and Eve.

Under the taut directorship of Adam Mason, who previously gave us Broken and The Devil’s Chair, mystery, thriller and horror are superbly and seamlessly melded into an at once reviled and delicious expectation that builds and swells like a blood vessel about to revolt against the fixed constraints of its fragile membrane: the fate of the young couple.

Less gory than his early work, Blood River has been compared to Time Keeper (Louis Belanger) and The Hitcher (Robert Harmon) -- and with good reason. Horror and thriller, when they are at the top of their game, invariably depend on expert pacing for their effects. Simon Boyes’s script along with unexpectedly nuanced performances from Andrew Howard, Ian Duncan and Tess Panzer slow things down and make their slippery sexual and degenerately psychological relationships almost as delectable as the blood the audience has come to partake in.

Not to be short shrifted is Mason’s sensitivity to the 4th character effects of desert landscape conflated with a sometimes sweet and savage music score that mirrors the heartbeat and bewildering fear of Clark and Summer as they attempt to find sure footing in an environment where human nature, tooth and claw, will have its day.

Blood River promises a good day at the cinema and an appetite for Adam Mason’s next. In its penetrating and realistically unadulterated portrayal of judgment, sin and punishment, Blood River, on a low budget, sounds a genre high note.

For the ratings of 2008 Fantasia Film Festival, HERE.
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