“Serious” horror filmmaking is a concept with a lot to answer for. It’s something of a scam, appropriating the language and techniques of conventional dramatic filmmaking to lend its lower-class genre a veneer of respectability. There’s something to be said for a good B-movie, one that really knows what it is and what it’s supposed to be. “Seriousness” has nothing to do with it. A good movie is a good movie. And Bloodthirsty is not a good movie.

It is, however, an extremely serious movie. Slow, though not patient, austere, though not intelligent, stylized, though not stylish, it’s so sincere and po-faced as to descend beneath the ignominious status of unintentional parody and settle instead as prime fodder for any parodist seeking only the lowest-hanging fruit. Writers Wendy Hill-Tout and Lowell exhibit not one original idea in their trite, predictable scenario, brought (barely) to life by director Amelia Moses in a stilted, jejune style that only emphasizes the movie’s shoddy production values. It’s an unqualified disaster of a movie.

Grey (Lauren Beatty) is the hottest, coolest new singer-songwriter in pop music, so in demand that even reclusive producer Vaughn (Greg Bryk) wants to work with her, having only rarely extended an invitation to other artists since he withdrew from the public eye several years back following a scandal. Grey travels with her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) to Vaughn’s remote country pile to write and record her sophomore record; the weather is chilly, the atmosphere chillier. Yet while Charlie finds herself pushed out of Grey’s life by the demanding Vaughn and his stern housekeeper Vera (Judith Buchan), Grey herself is drawn ever further into their strange, disturbing lifestyle.

Basically, Vaughn is a werewolf. The movie-monster-as-metaphor trope is so overused as to actually detract from any movie that uses it; when that monster is something as well-worn as a werewolf, the trope becomes comical in effect. When that movie refrains from revealing the nature of its monster for over half its running time, that comical effect ceases to harbor any comedic qualities and just becomes irritating. It’s as plain as day where Bloodthirsty is headed not 20 minutes in, yet this is a “serious” horror movie and “serious” horror movies never show their cards that early! No, that’s the stuff of the lowly B-movie—instead, those cards are needlessly withheld from the audience until we couldn’t care less what’s on them.

It’s all very plodding then, the thinnest of screenplays stretched out interminably with meaningful stares and faux-artsy cinematographic compositions. Beatty has all the screen presence of a spoon, so those would-be meaningful stares instead lack meaning altogether, while the movie’s visual style is flat and pallid. The soundtrack, comprising original songs by co-writer Lowell, is cut after cut of ponderous sad-pop for pretentious teens, with clunky sanguinary metaphors crooned out earnestly by Beatty over production so mundane you can’t help but laugh at the movie’s assertion that either of these characters are even near the top of their game. Beatty doesn’t look like a megastar and doesn’t sound like one, Bryk brings no charisma whatsoever to Vaughn and Grey’s world-conquering music sounds less like a surefire hit record than it does a poorly written set of songs for a cheap indie movie, indeed.

Delivered, as it is, in a tone that suggests Moses suspected she was making something closer to The Godfather than Teen Wolf, Bloodthirsty thus sidesteps its many opportunities for cheesy camp. Its resolute dearth of self-awareness is its own brand of camp and a truer, purer one, no doubt, but also one dependent on the plain and simple awfulness of its quality. There’s nothing wrong with the werewolf movie as a concept. There’s nothing wrong with low-budget filmmaking, nor even with patently cheap production values. There needn’t have been anything wrong with Bloodthirsty in spite of its shortcomings. Yet by the time its 84 minutes are mercifully over, you may be hard-pressed to find anything right with it.

The schlockiest, silliest horror movie of the year presented as the smartest, most highbrow horror movie of the decade. A heinous miscalculation and a failure of filmmaking across the board
8 %
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