Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
The Nightmares of Pill-Popping
The horror film Dry Blood sheds light on a drug addict named Brian Barnes (Clint Carney) who wants nothing more than to be sober after waking up hung-over behind the wheel of his car in a strange location. Having access to the cabin he used to own with his ex-wife, Brian relies on its secluded location and the support of a friend, sponsor, and former romantic interest named Anna (musician turned actress Jaymie Valentine; a vocalist for the music to Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus). Plagued by horrific hallucinations and stalked by an obsessive cop (played by director Kelton Jones), Brian’s withdrawal not only involves him facing his crippling paranoia, but also coming to terms with possibly being insane.
From a horror fan’s perspective, Dry Blood is a decent offering with a few strengths and several flaws. Clint Carney not only stars in the film, he’s also the screenwriter and an executive producer. As a first time writer, Carney has a solid debut and it makes you wonder if he picked up a few tips working with the likes of Oliver Stone, Wes Craven, J.J. Abrams, and David Fincher as a visual artist and prop maker. The main concept of Dry Blood is loaded with twists and turns that keeps its audience guessing. The film toys with whether or not this is all taking place in Brian’s head and it purposely misguides you in one direction and then the other on more than one occasion.
The ending is written in a way that makes the events of the film get stuck on a loop seemingly for eternity. Dry Blood is essentially an ouroboros or a snake eating its own tail. In Brian’s attempt to get better, he is only making himself worse. It’s a constant cycle he now finds himself in and Brian is doomed to live and re-live the horrors of his addiction in a circle of hell that is inescapable. To write something that is the same or similar going forward as it is backwards is a challenging endeavor that deserves kudos for accomplishing despite its degree of satisfaction.
The performances are subpar at best. Carney is passable as an actor at times, but completely oversells it whenever Brian is meant to be panicking. His screams, labored breathing, and freak outs all come off as forced and don’t seem genuine at all. Jaymie Valentine also isn’t competent enough to be featured as much as she is. The Anna character is condescending in nature anyway and questions everything Brian does with her nostrils flared and a permanent sneer plastered to her face, but her line delivery is so stiff that she comes off as a valley girl who thinks she’s knowledgeable about something when she really knows nothing about it at all.
The motive for the cop is questionable and unclear. He stalks Brian to an unhealthy degree, mumbles things and then denies saying anything, claims to just want to be friends, calls Brian, “buddy,” repetitively, and has a fixation on Brian changing his clothes since he seems, “ripe,” on a consistent basis. Other than expecting Brian has a substance abuse problem, there is little payoff for the cop character and an explanation behind the purpose of his obsession with Brian is practically nonexistent.
You’re also left wondering why Brian is so adamant about having Anna there at the cabin with him. He claims he needs her help to stay clean, but when she arrives she mostly calls him crazy, denies that ghosts are real, and reminds Brian at every turn that their sexual encounter was a one-time thing. Brian’s advancements on Anna are uncomfortable at times mostly because he doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.
The special effects are a blend of semi-impressive practical effects and sometimes funky CGI. Dry Blood feels one step above being incredibly low budget, so they do seem to do the best with what they have. Brian’s hallucinations are the best parts of the film, which is unfortunate since they probably total about five minutes of the film’s 83-minute runtime. Bloody sequences are typically what are executed to the best degree in the film while scenes that rely on something more computer generated like the deer head on a human body featured in the trailer and a woman missing her eyeballs are effective, but don’t look quite as good as you'd expect.
Dry Blood is like a bloodier and more illusory version of Secret Window with a twist lifted straight out of The Endless. The acting isn’t always great and the story is often predictable, but it’s fairly entertaining for horror fans especially if you’re able to unplug the deducing mechanism in your brain for an hour and a half.
© 2019 Chris Sawin