Studio: Monarch Home Entertainment
Director: Scooter Downey
Writer: Sean Elliot, Scooter Downey
Producer: Sean Elliot, Scooter Downey
Stars: Lance Henriksen, Sean Elliot, Rose Sirna, Jimmy Gonzales
A father and son confront haunting memories from their past while a sinister creature stalks them in the woods.
Two tales are told concurrently in “It’s in the Blood,” the story of a father and son confronting threats both tangible and intangible. Lance Henriksen is Russell, the grizzled country sheriff resigned to a life of relatively quiet solitude. Sean Elliot is his estranged son October. With a wedge driven between them from a past family tragedy, October has occupied his life as a drifter. Returning to the homestead after an extended absence, father and son embark on an uneasy weekend of reconciliation. Their situation becomes dire when they are caught in the woods and stalked by a mysterious creature.
The only horror movie character more clichéd than the backwoods country sheriff is the masked stalker. Putting an estranged son on the lawman’s family tree is not breaking new ground either. But “It’s in the Blood” takes these two boilerplate archetypes and fills them with unique personas, led by a Lance Henriksen performance that is a reminder of how much the veteran actor brings to the table, even when playing a familiar trope.
As the dynamic between the two men is established, it is partially unclear what the story is going to be about. The part of the film that takes place in flashbacks unfolds gradually. While October was still a boy, Russell brought home a little girl named Iris to join the family. There is no mention of a formal adoption, and the details of her addition to the clan are left unexplained. Despite being a stepsister of sorts, Iris and October begin a romance that rings sweet, not incestuous. In adulthood, her life is taken by a manmade tragedy, the nature of which changes the tie between father and son.
In the present day thread, Russell and October’s long overdue reunion lands them caught in the woods after Russell breaks his leg. Unfortunately for them, the possibility of a gangrenous infection is soon to be the least of their worries when a shambling shape makes itself known. There may be a creature lurking in the trees, with father and son as prey, but “It’s in the Blood” is not a pure monster movie. That literal menace is meant to parallel the figurative demon from their shared past that troubles their psyches. Both monsters are dangerous.
Each story is told simply, with the backstory delivered via very little dialogue. The plotline from the past is straightforward, yet “It’s in the Blood” has enough confidence in its audience’s intelligence to trust that small snippets are enough to deliver the big picture. It is a satisfying slow reveal regarding Iris’ fate. Although the danger coming her way is telegraphed early, the way it plays out is chilling and heartbreaking. The girl’s screentime is scant, but her death carries a real emotional resonance that emphasizes each man’s suffering.
The visual depiction of that storyline melds into the present day woodland threat as the appearance of dangers both in the mind and in the trees are given dreamlike effects. October and Russell are trapped in endless isolation and that atmosphere is manifested effectively through imagery that blends the two realities together.
However, while both threads are engaging, there is an unsatisfying disconnect when they finally merge. Given the way that each storyline unravels in tandem, it seemed that the two were going to cross paths with a more literal connection. That is not the case. The threat from the past and the threat from the present share a relation only in the minds of the men. With the film successfully building suspense and mystery through its narrative technique, it is a letdown that the payoff keeps the stories separate. In actuality, these were just two men haunted by a ghost as they also happened to find themselves haunted by a different entity in the present.
The terrific performance by Lance Henriksen stands out amongst everything else, bad and good, in the film. Whether swatting insects or pretending to be a woman having an orgasm (yes, really), Henriksen showcases a range of acting skills both subdued and overt. He has genuine chemistry with Sean Elliot as his son and grabs an assist from well crafted and expertly delivered dialogue. On the relationship with his wife: “We made a kind of deal that we both could live with. I was the gas and she was the brake.” His monologue comparing television static to ants fighting lends his character a lived-in quality that perfectly suits the role. This is a man that tells the whole story of a hard life through a singular expression.
Small budget independent horror films often do not possess this much artistry. The film drowns under too much of it in places, but it has far more successes in creating moody chills and a tenderly grim backstory. There could have been a more visceral connection between the two tales, although the pacing and performances still make them both gratifying. “It’s in the Blood” is a must-see for Lance Henriksen fans. And really, shouldn’t that be just about everybody?
Review Score: 70