2005 - 81m.
There are not a lot of movies out there that show how a person could become an accidental murderer. Usually when we see someone slaughtering young people in the woods, we simply chalk it up to the fact that something happened in their past that, over time, caused some kind of mental instability that engaged the kill switch. In Bloodshed, the killer is sympathetic for most of the movie as he is trying to protect his family and a chain of events builds up and unravels quickly past the point of no return. As a viewer, we watch two people trying to keep to themselves become killers by accident due to unfortunate circumstances. This take on the genre is refreshing and even though there is enough of a back story to explain the reactions of the main characters, it is painful to watch a pair of brothers with strong loyalties to one another get themselves into a situation to which there is seemingly no option but to dig a deeper hole.
Beth (Shana Klisanin), a waitress at a small cafe, decides to go to a bar with her promiscuous co-worker Katie (Shannon Laine), Katie's boyfriend Luke (Ryan Parks), and Luke's friend Rodney (Mark Saffold). The bar is empty other than the bartender and a local hermit named Frank (Ice Mrozek). After a few drinks, the three start telling Beth the rumours about Frank and how he killed his father in their remote home in the woods. Rodney hassles Frank at the bar and this confrontation creates some bad blood between the two parties. The next day, Frank's brother with an intellectual disability named Donnie (Christopher Childs) comes into the cafe to sell his homemade jam and is harassed by Luke and Rodney for staring at Katie's ass. This establishes some sexually curious tendencies in Donnie that are seen again a couple of days later when he is caught spying on Luke and Katie having sex. The altercation that ensues because of this finds Luke and Rodney beaten with an axe handle and Katie lost in the forest. Katie is accidentally killed, Donnie find her and brings her body home, and Frank desperately tries to hide the evidence as he knows that he and Donnie will be blamed. The cover-up becomes more desperate as more people become involved and soon Frank and Donnie make the switch from men trying to protect their innocence to full-fledged murderers.
This movie is very well made considering the fact that it is very low budget and I was drawn in very quickly to the characters due to solid performances from most of the cast members. The lack of experience that plagues the acting in many indie flicks is not obvious with each actor bringing something to their character from the insecure bravado in Rodney to the bitchiness of Katie. The two brothers really stand out and Ice Mrozak gives his character the depth to be sympathetic even when he is dismembering someone with an axe. The tone of the film is decidedly moody and composer Carlo Dean's score has an undercurrent of sorrow throughout adding to the performances and the desperation of the situation. The script which was co-written by Michael Victor Roy and director Jim McMahon is engrossing and had a very tight grip on me until a point where the Frankie character changes his motives so the killing seems like it is no longer necessary. I am not sure why they chose to have Frankie move in this direction and I lost much of the sympathy that I had towards his plight when he veered into a more traditional psycho role. Even with this misstep in the writing, I do not think that should take away from just how competent this cast is and how this is one of the better microbudget horror flicks I have seen in a while. It also delivers on gore and nudity while not seeming gratuitous other than to move the story forward.
As is often the case with horror movies, this is plagued with terrible cover art. Had this not been given to me to review, it is unlikely that I would have checked it out. With so much care and attention being given to the flick itself from the casting process to set design to post-production, it really is a shame to see such terrible marketing materials promoting the movie. A professional poster and press kit to back up this flick may have made the difference as to whether or not more people were interested. The movie is over a decade old now and the cast and crew do not seem to have done anything of this calibre since. This is truly a shame and there is so much potential here, it is sad to see it go undeveloped. (Josh Pasnak, 6/12/18)
Directed By: Jim McMahon.
Written By: Jim McMahon, Michael Victor Roy.
Starring: Ice Mrozek, Shana Klisanin, Christopher Childs, Elisabeth Laine (Shannon Laine).