Directed by: Amelia Moses. Starring: Lauren Beatty, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So. Runtime: 1h 24 min.
Minor spoilers follow.
In Amelia Moses’ second feature, Bloodthirsty follows a singer-songwriter, Grey (Lauren Beatty), who visits a secluded mansion along with her girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So), in order to collaborate on her second album with an eccentric and successful music producer named Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk). While there, her hallucinations of turning into a wolf become more prominent. She must learn if the monster is outside the mansion, in the studio or in her own body.
Moses is becoming an interesting voice in horror with this film and her first feature Bleed with Me – which recently premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival in August – with intimate chamber pieces with a focus on the female experience. I didn’t click with the characters or situation in Bleed with Me as a patient slow burn, but I loved the scenario in this film, and how Moses is able to bring this to life.
I found the character dynamics fascinating, as Grey is forced to give into more primal, raw instincts throughout and her character arc is very smart. She goes from someone who’s upset about running over a bunny on a road, and she changes into someone who… well, to avoid spoilers, someone who wouldn’t be upset about that anymore as we see this in a memorable moment. Besides the change in her actions, we can easily see that change in her music and her relationship with Charlie, as well.
I liked that Charlie didn’t feel sidelined and she was along for this ride, and the chemistry between Beatty and Katharine King So was great and sweet. There’s a great moment between them that highlights Grey’s change when Grey shows her a new song (“God is a Fascist” by Lowell) and Charlie listens, emotional, and tells her that her music has changed since she’s arrived here.
Charlie looks proud of Grey’s talent and her new song; but she is also extremely wary of her. It’s great how Grey’s changes feel so raw and emotional throughout, and Beatty totally plays to that aspect well as the character goes through this internal battle.
Their individual dynamics with Vaughn Daniels, too, are strong; especially as Vaughn and Charlie spar, as they both feel they know what is best for Grey. Some of the film’s best scenes come where Grey learns about herself, as well as where Grey and Vaughn collaborate on their music. They have a fascinating dynamic as Vaughn is mysterious as a man who was acquitted for the murder of his wife, and also as a man who seems to be hiding something.
The film is written by mother-daughter team Wendy Hill-Tout and Lowell, by the way. Lowell also writes much of the original music for this film and the music is great, which is so important for a film focused on that process of song writing, as much of Grey’s internal thoughts and development is told through these original songs (the original song “Bloodthirsty” is a showstopper).
I enjoyed how Bloodthirsty was paced, too, as it always feels active in its story, and Moses brings a strong sense of style to the dream sequences and hallucinations. That bit of surrealism lends well to the horror. The sound design sounds great as there’s such a focus on eerie sounds in this film to create its intimate and eerie atmosphere.
The writing and directing go together well, and it creates a unique experience in this sub-genre of horror – from the psychological aspects to the monstrous and primal aspects. The body horror is fantastic and so is the make-up, where that awesomeness really comes into play in the third act.
This film premieres as part of the Blood in the Snow Film Festival on November 4, 2020 at 9 p.m. on Super Channel Fuse.