Director: Sonny Mallhi
Writer: Nicolas Savvides, Sonny Mallhi
Producer: Adam Hendricks, John Lang, Greg Gilreath
Stars: Vinessa Shaw, James Ransone, Colin Ford, Ajiona Alexus, France Jean-Baptiste, Eloise Lushina
A drug addict struggling to repair her fractured family meets a mysterious man with an unusual alternative for her troubles.
Single mother Ellie needs a fresh start with her troubled son Kyle and 13-year-old daughter Amy. Desperate to repair the fallout caused by years of drug abuse, Ellie hopes a new home, new school, and reenrollment in a 12-step program can finally put her fractured family on a path toward healing.
So far, not so good. That new home resides in a crime-riddled neighborhood. Kyle’s first week of school ends with suspension for continuing to relieve aggression through fighting. And Ellie finds herself frustratingly ready to relapse when a fellow junkie presents her with an enticing packet of pills.
Mystery man Christopher has a unique remedy for Ellie’s problems, and he prescribes it without her permission. Claiming to empathize with her tragic condition, Christopher exchanges Ellie’s addiction for a craving of a different kind. With a bite on her neck and transfer of blood, Christopher turns Ellie into a creature of the night. Unfortunately, Ellie finds her new thirst for blood to be more insatiable than her former desire for drugs, and this dependency could tear apart her family with teeth.
“Family Blood” takes place in a world where seemingly no one has heard of Dracula. Christopher and Ellie have fangs, superhuman strength, heightened hunting senses, regenerative healing abilities, drink blood, ask to be invited inside, and don’t see reflections in mirrors. Yet when Ellie inquires about her startling transformation, Christopher responds, “I turned you into whatever it is that I am.” Buddy, I don’t know why you’re afraid of the word, but it’s clearly called “vampire.”
Perhaps “Family Blood” means to echo the experience of having skin punctured by the mythical monster who shall not be named. Perhaps it merely wishes to emulate the feeling of being lost in a heroin haze to parallel its drug addiction throughline. Either way, the film’s exhausting dullness hooks lifelessly draining melodrama into an IV of incredibly anemic horror.
Orchestrated from the outset to be intimately quiet, “Family Blood” smothers itself in sluggishness, highlighting its sleepy rhythm with a slow score that sounds as though the composer is nodding off between far spaced piano notes. Director Sonny Mallhi’s attempts at constructing tension come chiefly from drawn out moments of people walking down stairs, opening doors, going from room to room, and often calling out a name punctuated by a question mark.
See if you can complete this sequence. When Ellie’s bloodlust evolves past animals into an urge for her first taste of human flesh, who conveniently knocks on her door? It’s the neighbor who was rude to Ellie earlier. She wants to search for her missing cat in Ellie’s basement. Could you script what comes next? That’s how predictably rote “Family Blood” is.
This is the first Blumhouse movie I can consciously recall where Jason Blum is not credited as a producer. I won’t read into that observation too much as there may be other releases without his name that I am unaware of.
I will however speculate that since “Family Blood” is one of Blumhouse’s DTV dumps, it is possible it suffered a fate similar to “Visions” (review here) or “Stephanie” (review here), i.e. the original script was edited to within an inch of its life for budgetary reasons, or a fuller cut was shredded in post-production to force fit the film into a 90-minute frame. Certain arcs definitely appear rushed, particularly romantic relationships. Christopher goes from sudden arrival to Ellie’s bedmate in a scandalously short amount of screentime. Kyle’s barely there connection with a classmate culminates in a final fate bearing no emotional weight because their time together sputters across only three brief scenes.
Credits like one for a “Pawn Salesman” I don’t remember being in the movie further suggest something more must have existed in between bare spots at another time. There’s nothing there now though, and what remains is a yawn in film form.
Sometimes, someone might defend a disappointing movie by theorizing, “this could have been good if…” Not here. I don’t think “Family Blood” stood a chance. James Ransone, an actor exceptionally skilled at embodying quirky intensity, is misused as a monotone mope devoid of discernible personality, a trait shared by all characters. Plug passionless people into a script sapping strength from its theme through inert action, you’re going to get an uneventfully forgettable movie no matter what. That’s exactly how “Family Blood’s” formula fails.
Review Score: 30