CFF Review: Timothy Covell’s ‘Blood Conscious’
Timothy Covell’s “Blood Conscious” is a brilliantly executed, cerebral exercise in managing paranoia that within the first few minutes has the characters juggling with who they can trust, what’s actually going on, and deciphering how they’re going to get out of this situation without being killed or suffering an even worse fate. It’s a film that submerges the viewer in it’s madness as well by presenting them with the same guessing game the characters are playing, empowering it with excellent performances from a barebones cast, creatively avoiding tired tropes with it’s intelligent script, and slowly introducing startlingly discomforting revelations without ever giving away too much in the way of actual facts. It’s a story about human perceptions, our fear of the uncertain, and the sometimes terrifying consequences these two things can lead to when left unchecked during a tense situation.
It’ll surely be compared to classics of the genre such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing” though the true threat as well as the line between reality and fiction in “Blood Conscious” is a considerably subtler one; the filmmakers are clearly more interested in exploring the dangers of the situation caused by uninformed human judgement than making it about outwitting the parasitic, inhuman threat. A threat which in and of itself is far less tangible, never appearing as anything much more than a suggestion made by the characters, and most definitely not as unmistakably real as a tentacle-ridden, shapeshifting creature.
The movie opens with a successful young entrepreneur named Tony and his fiancée Brittney who are driving to her family’s old vacation spot by the lake for a weekend getaway with her parents, accompanied by her uninterested younger brother Kevin. You get some quick characterization in the car as they arrive at the seemingly deserted campsite, discovering nothing but empty cabins that appear to have been hurriedly vacated as they wander around searching for their family or any sign of other people. It doesn’t take long before Kevin spots his mother sitting in a lawn chair by the lake, but as he approaches her he sees the bullet holes riddling her torso in addition to finding his father’s equally dead body leaned against a nearby tree. A gunman exits the shrubs with his shotgun aimed at Kevin, as Tony and Brittney unknowingly approach the standoff where they’re all accused of being “demons” by the visibly disturbed shooter, who appears to be some sort of deranged religious nut. As more details are smartly revealed over the course of the film’s eighty-one minute runtime, it frighteningly starts to become a very realistic possibility that there actually is some sort of entity in the woods waiting for a host, and the threat it poses is far from over.
Kevin is the film’s central character, and he’s brought to life with brilliant nuance by Oghenero Gbaje in an unbelievably good feature debut performance. This actor most certainly has an incredible career ahead of him, and it’d be great to see the completed yet unreleased drama “Miscalculated” which he starred in get a release of some sort. The rest of the cast is comprised of other skilled new talent and relatively unknown but highly talented genre actors who put in a range of great performances; DeShawn White (Pimp, Jessica Jones) as the perceptive but dependent Brittney, Lenny Thomas (in another promisingly great feature debut) as the overconfident and unaware Tony, Nick Damici (Mulberry Street, Stake Land) as the terrifyingly unhinged and possibly deranged gun-wielding stranger, and Lori Hammel (Burn After Reading, Jessica Jones) as a flawlessly executed “Karen” named Margie who’s entire presence is mysterious and shocking.
“Blood Conscious” has some solid cinematography with good framing and composition that’s highlighted by the smartly utilized 4:3 aspect ratio the film is presented in. The first act has a couple of slight flaws in how the characters deal (or sort of, don’t) with the shockingly violent loss of their family members when given time to decompress, though the tension and imminent danger of the situation they’re in makes it pretty easy to rationalize those shortcomings, especially since the stakes rise rapidly soon thereafter. It’s low budget is quite apparent at times, though the filmmakers manage to cleverly mask the majority of it’s potential weaknesses via the minimalistic nature of how the story is told; by focusing on the character interactions it allows the writing and performances to sell the experience rather than expensive production.
Overall “Blood Conscious” is a highly engaging thriller that will surely lead to impressive future endeavors from all involved; this is a must-see for fans of the genre that puts a modern spin on a familiar idea and delivers a hard-hitting finale that’ll have you thinking about it’s implications long after the credits roll.