Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Brad Anderson’s Blood

For what its worth, blood is rich in protein, so don’t judge Jess Stokes. It is the only source of nourishment her son can keep down after he was bitten by a hyper-rabid dog. Like any mother, she will do anything to save her child, but she must go to extreme lengths in Brad Anderson’s Blood, which opens Friday in New York.

Stokes had self-medication issues three years ago, but she is now totally clean. She is also a nurse, which should count for a lot, but her very ex-husband Patrick (who never shaves and always wears Carhartt jackets) still holds her past against her during custody hearings. She has just moved her teen daughter Tyler and ten-year-old-ish son Owen to her family’s old farmhouse, because that is what she can afford. Her ex is raring to regain sole custody, so Stokes is super-careful. Nevertheless, Owen gets himself bitten by his dog Pippen. After disappearing into the night, the formerly friendly pooch returned in a Cujo-like state.

For a while, Owen’s condition is touch and go, but he responds to blood transfusions—especially those taken orally. Stokes found out the latter part by accident and is reluctant to share her discovery with her colleagues. Instead, she takes Owen home to nurse him herself. Of course, as Seymour Krelborn could tell her, maintaining a steady supply of fresh human blood is tricky business. Plus, Owen’s behavior is altering.

Will Honley’s screenplay is familiar, predictable, and manipulative, but key cast-members manage to elevate it considerably. Michelle Monaghan and Skylar Morgan Jones are both excellent as the mother and sister desperately trying to protect their semi-rabid loved one. If this were a film about a little boy suffering from Xi’s Covid, Monaghan and Jones would be getting critical laurels for the fierceness and sensitivity of their work. Instead, they will be largely ignored, because this is a hematophagy film with slight fantastical overtones. Frankly, they are carrying the film between them, especially since Skeet Ulrich looks like a homeless person, even though Patrick is supposed to be the responsible parent.

Anderson definitely leans into the family melodrama, somewhat to the detriment of the pacing. It lacks the slickness and tension of the director’s better films, like
Vanishing on 7th Street and Beirut. Honestly, it drags a little. Not really recommended despite the quality of the work done by Monaghan and Jones, Blood opens Friday (1/27) in Brooklyn, at the Kent Theater.