Studio: Random Media
Director: Jennifer Phillips
Writer: Jennifer Phillips
Producer: Jennifer Phillips
Stars: Alyx Melone, Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie, Charlotte Cattell, Biden Hall, Lisa Kovack, Coco Uiga, Tara Chitaroni
Terrifying consequences haunt a young mother in mourning when she turns to black magic and begins raising a ghost child.
The disclaimer opening “Blood Child” scratches the scalp in more ways than one. Text at the top purports the film’s “story is based on true events that took place in South East Asia and the United States some years ago,” with the usual addendum of names having been changed to protect identities and whatnot.
This seems a spectacularly specious claim to make since “Blood Child’s” premise involves a mournful mother using black magic to sire a ghost child whose hauntings result in murder. I don’t doubt that superstitious rituals involving ghost children exist or that maybe an actual person was driven mad by fantasies of a zombie girl killing her family and friends. But if “Blood Child” insists on saying its supernatural tale really happened as depicted, the only rational reaction is to call “bullsh*t.”
Additionally odd is a statement that “the sequence of events has been told in exactly the way that it occurred.” What’s bizarre about that is “Blood Child’s” backstory unfolds via nonlinear flashbacks scattered along a timeline starting in the present, jumping back eleven months, then returning to the present with concurrent side-stories occasionally cutting in as well. So if this sequence of events truly is “exactly the way that it occurred,” then it appears the people involved had access to a TARDIS or a DeLorean too.
If I’m going to criticize “Blood Child” for its writing, and I am, focus should fall off this pre-title bit and onto the script, which is no less choppily composed without regard for what is being relayed or how. “Blood Child” creates characters who like their act one dialogue to consist entirely of exposition, telling other people things they already know purely for the audience’s benefit. As pedestrian as this is, it’s preferable to how information is lazily delivered later, like when someone literally stumbles upon a iPhone on the ground featuring an unlocked stream of secret photos, or when a woman searching for her friend serendipitously finds an open laptop with convenient bedroom camera surveillance footage revealing exactly what happened. Since we’re already accepting homicidal ghost children and time travel as “true events,” what would a few deus ex machinas hurt?
Having apparently never seen “Pet Sematary,” Ashley’s bright idea to get over the death of her unborn baby involves an appeal to Asian mysticism. Helping point her toward the right witch doctor is Ashley’s Indonesian housekeeper Siti, a person so stereotypically portrayed by ending every broken English sentence with a nasally “ma’am,” the only way her role could be any more culturally insensitive is if she were played by Mickey Rooney. The rapid-fire rate of rude remarks routinely hurled at Siti without any bystander batting a lash might be comical if it weren’t so carelessly racist at the same time.
Rivaling Ashley in the dimwitted decision-making department is her mother Renee. Over the course of visiting Ashley and her husband Bill for several days, Renee can’t make up her mind regarding whether she should push the issue of the ghost girl who appears in her bed to whisper “get out,” or let it sit and see if the dilemma settles itself. The only explanation for Renee alternately knowing every dark deed her daughter did to bring evil into the house and then only worrying about what’s for dinner is that she must be afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
Bill doesn’t do any better. He sees a barfly going down on him morph into a decomposing girl, witnesses his wife talking to an invisible child, and can’t shake nightly visions of the ghost who also makes footstep noises in the shadows. Yet when Renee suggests a pintsized phantom is in their midst, Bill tells her to take a hike and pack her nutty notions along for the trip.
Characterizations are inconsistent. Basic blandness chokes every spoken word. Completing this unholy trinity of structural stutters is acting so charmless, I’ve waited until now to mention perhaps the film’s most fatal flaw because I futilely hoped to delicately dance around it.
The least blunt way to describe the cast’s convincingness would be to say I would believe “Blood Child” is a true story before I’d believe any one of its actors as an authentic person. As Ashley, Alyx Melone can cry on cue, but there is no substance behind any beat. She resembles Alex Essoe, yet exhibits neither chemistry with her counterparts nor charisma during solo scenes. Actresses like Lisa Kovack (Renee) and Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie (Siti) turn in better work, except their parts are so poorly put together that their personas read as ridiculous.
Although it doesn’t come across in what’s written above, I genuinely hate to be this harsh on a microbudget indie production. “Blood Child” puts sincere commitment into its well-intentioned effort. And it at least adds a dash of occult culture that isn’t commonly known or employed in horror films. Unfortunately, compliments end there.
In addition to a scattered screenplay and awkward acting, an unsettled camera and interior settings with blown out windows combine for an unsightly amateur aesthetic. It isn’t enjoyable to tell the truth in this instance, even though “true” has a flexible definition where this film is concerned. As an entertaining, scary, engaging, or commercially competitive feature, “Blood Child” simply can’t cut it.
Review Score: 30