Writer/director Timothy Covell starts Blood Conscious where most films genre end, after the massacre. Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje), his older sister Brittney (DeShawn White, Motherless Brooklyn), and her fiancé Tony (Lenny Thomas, Diego of the Dead) are planning on spending some time at their parent’s lakeside cottage. It’s the off-season so they’re not surprised to find the area quiet and seemingly deserted. Until they find their parents, as well as their neighbours, have been murdered.
Not only is the killer (Nick Damici, Cold in July, Dark Was the Night) still around, he gets the drop on them, at least temporarily. He claims he had to kill the others, they had been possessed by demons. Getting the upper hand they disarm him and lock him in the basement. But as the night wears on, at least one of them begins to suspect he may be telling the truth.
During its festival run, I saw The Evil Dead being referred to as an influence on Blood Conscious more than once. But apart from being set in a cabin and the possibility of there being demons involved, there’s not much similarity. Anyone expecting a fast-paced gore fest will be disappointed. This is more of a slow burn built around the possibility of there being demons in the darkness.
Although it would be inaccurate to say Blood Conscious is about race, racism is very much present throughout the film. Our characters grapple with how they will be perceived by other—presumably white—people when seeking help from the outsideTimothy Covell director of Blood Concious
Blood Conscious creates an air of uncertainty closer to They Look Like People or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. Then it mixes in elements of I Trapped the Devil and filters it through Get Out. While the killings aren’t racially motivated, the victims were both black and white, race factors into many other aspects of the film. From the leads wondering how likely they are to be blamed for the killings to the reaction of Margie (Lori Hammel, Rapid Eye Movement, Burn After Reading), who could be a survivor or a demon.
And that is what Covell keeps Blood Conscious focused on, the uncertainty and doubt as to what is really going on. And, as paranoid psychological horror, it largely succeeds. As circumstances constantly shift we’re left guessing who and what to believe. As the night wears on, paranoia grows and even family ties start to come undone that becomes harder and harder to do. The fact that very basic prejudice and bigotry may play into what the characters want to believe just makes it that much more like the real world.
Some excellent performances also help with that believability. Damici is excellent as the killer, delivering his insane-sounding claims with total sincerity. He certainly believes what he’s saying. Oghenero Gbaje won the best actor award at Panic Fest for his performance as Kevin and it’s easy to see why. This is only his second film and his first feature, making his performance that much more impressive. He would seem to have a bright future ahead of him. The dynamic between these two as Kevin begins to slowly buy into his claims is another of the film’s strong points.
For all its strengths though, Blood Conscious has one of the weakest endings I’ve seen recently. It doesn’t so much end as just sort of stop mid-scene. I understand what Covell was trying for, but I don’t think audiences will react the way he thought they would. A film with themes as strong as this really needs a definitive ending, not something that leaves you hanging.
Dark Sky Films will release Blood Conscious in select theatres and on Digital/VOD Platforms on August 20th. You can check their website and Facebook page or the film’s Facebook page, for more information.