Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” seems to have attracted the attention of the indie film world this year. First we had George Adams’ Lady Usher and now Arrow Video has given us Patrick Picard’s The Bloodhound. Both are modern versions of the story, but that’s all they have in common, apart from their general disregard for mainstream filmmaking.
Francis (Liam Aiken, The Honor Farm, The Emoji Movie) and Jean Paul “JP” Luret (Joe Adler, The Maze Runner, The Mentalist) are college friends who have drifted apart over the ensuing ten or so years. Now JP is having health issues and could use some help and reaches out to his old friend who has financial issues and could use a place to stay.
There’s a third person in the house, JP’s twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Snowpiercer) with whom Francis also has history. She has taken to her room and Francis is warned against visiting her as she has become unstable, at times violently so. Instead she comes to Francis bearing the wearing “Leave now, before you die with the rest of us”.
The Bloodhound’s title refers to a faceless figure in Jean Paul’s nightmares. One who comes crawling, term out of the lake into the house in order to destroy everyone in it. We see him in the film’s prologue, but whether we’re seeing reality or the contents of a nightmare isn’t revealed.
In any case, a traditional horror film stalker would be much too overt for The Bloodhound. It’s a slow burn of a film driven by dialogue and atmosphere. The house is all dark colours and tones, giving it a depressing, claustrophobic feel despite its size and design. It’s one of those houses meant to look futuristic when it was built in the fifties or sixties. But all of the windows are blocked by almost perpetually closed curtains, and the interior lighting never seems adequate.
Which is the perfect setting for Francis to have to wrestle with his friend’s increasingly obvious insanity, literally in one scene that treads a fine line between funny and creepy. I, and I’m guessing most people, would have bailed out after the cellar incident if not before. JP welcoming someone he hadn’t seen in years by threatening to strangle them might just do it for some. But Francis stays, his own motives and intent unclear.
Vivian is, unfortunately, barely in the film, seeming to mostly exist primarily as a link back to the source material. This leaves the film a two hander and thankfully Aiken and Adler have the talent and chemistry to pull it off. That includes several rather intentionally awkward scenes that hint there maybe a bond beyond friendship, or the desire for one, between them. Because if they hadn’t been up to it The Bloodhound would have been pretty much unwatchable.
Granted, those that need shocks and jump scares will probably still find it rough going. But those who like quieter, more literary genre efforts will like this. Pickard was smart enough to keep the film to a relatively brief 72 minutes. Films like this are best when they get the story told before it can bog down in its own words. The Bloodhound does just that and gets out just in time with an effective last shot.
The Bloodhound was produced by Leal Naim and Thomas R. Burke who also produced The Endless and Synchronic, and if it’s not as accessible as Benson and Moorehead’s films it’s still another contribution to quality, off beat, genre films. Arrow has picked it up for their streaming service. It’s currently exclusive to there but I’m fairly sure they took the DVD/Blu Ray rights as well and will be releasing it in those formats at some point. You can keep an eye on the Arrow Films website for announcements.