Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Tommy Stovall
Writer: Tommy Stovall
Producer: Marc Sterling, Tommy Stovall
Stars: James Martinez, Trevor Stovall, Farah White, David Castellvi, Michael Peach, Laurie Seymour, Noah Heekin, Luke Barnett, Michael Lopez, Michael Chieffo
A desperate father fights to save his hemophiliac son from succumbing to vampirism after a mysterious blood transfusion.
How far is one desperate father willing to go to save his sick son? That’s the question pumping “Aaron’s Blood,” a reserved, down-to-earth take on vampire mythos where human drama takes center stage and the inhuman element lingers in the wings.
When a bullying incident at school leaves hemophiliac Tate hemorrhaging blood at a worrying rate, a timely transfusion seemingly saves the day. Tate returns home with his attentive father Aaron only for the duo to discover one set of problems has been traded for another. Although Tate has newfound athletic strength, he also now has an aversion to sunlight and a growing thirst to drink human blood.
Impossibly, all signs point to vampirism. Aaron is disbelieving until a shocking incident at home introduces him to a hunter of the undead who is sympathetic to Aaron’s parental plight. Racing against the clock as his son slowly transforms, Aaron unspools the mystery of what happened to Tate while exploring every option he can to bring back the boy he loves.
Anyone unwilling to grade on a forgiving indie curve will have a tough time getting invested in the film’s fiction. Even though it gives all the effort its microbudget can afford, “Aaron’s Blood” unavoidably sports the warts of a shoestring production threading the eyelet of a narrow schedule.
Technical drawbacks start with lackluster lighting. In addition to some of the dimmest rooms any hospital has ever seen, scenery is often bathed in black due to insufficient resources, or overreliance on unavailable natural light, as opposed to purely conscious aesthetic choices. Actors usually receive a backlight, which is only sometimes complemented by a key. But rarely is someone seen with appropriate fill, much less all three common light points concurrently.
Audio is similarly dogged by low-budget limitations. Dialogue can occasionally be heard echoing off a table before bouncing back to a microphone, or blowing out into distortion when someone shouts too loudly.
Iffy acting sees inconsistencies too. As father figure Aaron, some of James Martinez’s scenes play out with natural emotion while others are stiff as a corpse. Martinez has many credits to his name, making this a probable case of relatively green director Tommy Stovall not having tuning time for retakes to pull requisite passion from performances.
Tommy Stovall takes another hit by casting his son Trevor Stovall as Tate. The elder Stovall is undoubtedly too close to the case to see how the young actor focuses on mechanically reciting lines instead of organically embodying a character. Their father-son battery is central to the story, yet Martinez and Stovall’s scenes together can come across with little more life than a half-speed rehearsal.
“Aaron’s Blood” has so much patience that even a breezy 76 minutes without credits gets caught up in filler of driving from one place to the next, knocking on doors, or other silent scenes not soon to quicken an audience’s pulse. Some of the structure is clunky. Tate is strangely confined to his aunt’s house for a prime portion of time while Aaron tends to investigative duties and body burial. As much as such a move is at odds with developing the parent-child dynamic, pacing oddly improves since Tate’s solo scenes have a hard time holding their weight.
This laundry list of dings doesn’t fully debilitate the film, because its script slips honest heart into quiet horror. With melodrama emphasized over action, more important marks met by the movie have to do with overall effective delivery of story and theme. “Aaron’s Blood” is unusual among vampire yarns in that it isn’t overly interested in mythology or excessive fang-flinging carnage. Tate’s condition is a frame to tell a personal tale of a put-upon family man and the bond fatherhood brings.
Look past the bare spots in atmosphere and acting and one can see deeper meaning aching to be acknowledged. “Aaron’s Blood” has neither the scope some might want nor the power to trade punches with its vampire-premised peers. But beating beneath is earnest intent that makes it successful under other standards as a small-scale dramatic thriller.
Review Score: 65