2020 Film Reviews

Review: Patrick Picard’s ‘The Bloodhound’

The Bloodhound Movie Film

The Bloodhound opens with one of the most startling images in a horror movie, or indeed any movie, this year. A fully-dressed man — jeans, leather jacket, the whole lot — with a pair of pantyhose pulled tightly around his face, concealing his identity, emerges from a body of water, crawls inside a house and hides in one of the closets. This modernist mansion, full of sharp edges and surfaces where dust never settles, is where protagonist Francis (Liam Aiken) finds himself summoned by eccentric rich friend J.P. (Joe Adler), from whom he hasn’t seen or heard in well over a decade. As J.P. ominously tells Francis, “It’s very much like you’ve entered a dream — for better and for worse.” 

In a loose retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s famed short story The Fall of the House of Usher, J.P. has fallen victim to an undisclosed illness also afflicting his twin sister, Vivian (Annalise Basso). Mostly confined to her room but prone to loud outbursts, Vivian appears to also be suffering from some kind of mental ailment, while J.P. exhibits clear signs of undiagnosed OCD. Unsurprisingly, he admits to Francis that he hasn’t left the house in years, telling his old friend “we never have to leave this place” in a way that’s meant to be comforting but instead comes across like a threat. Suffice to say, there’s something very wrong with this place and these people. 

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The Bloodhound Movie Film

The feature debut of writer-director Patrick Picard is just 72 minutes long, so there naturally isn’t a moment to waste. To Picard’s great credit, he gets to the meat of the story immediately. Once Francis enters this godforsaken place, the focus doesn’t stray from it. The Bloodhound is mostly a two-hander between Aiken and Adler, both appearing in almost every scene. Although Basso is the biggest name, Vivian barely features, existing mostly as a strange presence on the peripheral. When she does appear, as in her semi-nightly visits to Francis’s room, the effect is disconcerting. Is Vivian a ghostly presence? Did she die many years ago and J.P. just can’t cope with facing the truth? 

Both Aiken and Adler are wonderful in their respective roles, the former playing the straight man with a dull edge of underhandedness — it’s never quite clear what his true motivations for visiting J.P. are. As the more eccentric of the two, Adler imbues his arrogant rich kid with just enough oddness to make him utterly believable (he’s the guy you tried to avoid in the bar after class, when he’d had a few too many spritzers). J.P. is just as bored watching a private opera performance as a homemade porno movie. There’s a sexual deviancy to him that comes out here and there, a hint that maybe he likes Francis as more than a friend but is unable to confront those feelings. 

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The Bloodhound Movie Film

There’s no sex or nudity, nor even violence, on display but The Bloodhound revels in discomfort and everyday perversion, from the near-constant blood-red glow of a lamp that later begins flashing incessantly to the bizarre score that frequently recalls Murder, She Wrote. The house is filled with curtains, almost as though it’s hiding something from itself, but footage of the many vast rooms slowly growing dark is gorgeous, ensuring J.P.’s home never feels like somewhere Francis wouldn’t willingly stay if given half the chance. There are moments when the action is a little stagey, almost as though it’s been adapted from a play, but they only heighten the atmosphere of impending dread. 

A genuinely bizarre sleeping bag fight is the only real moment of levity, and even then it’s not much of a break. The Bloodhound may not be a particularly long watch, but it is a difficult one. And yet, there’s a hypnotic quality to Picard’s movie best exemplified during a scene when J.P. quietly tells the titular story to his buddy, with Francis’s closet looming creepily behind him. The bloodhound, as a character, is a terrifying creation. In fact, after watching him roam about the house, it’s unlikely you’ll ever trust another closed closet door again. He doesn’t feature in a large stretch of the movie, but the bloodhound’s presence is keenly felt throughout, and the effect is truly bloodcurdling. 

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The Bloodhound Movie Film

There’s a timelessness to The Bloodhound that puts it on a par with recent and similarly quietly-horrific offerings like It Follows and Piercing, whose styling and purposely-stilted dialogue hearken back to a bygone era even while the characters seemed to exist in something approaching the real world. Here, J.P. brags that anything can be delivered to the house, but when he’s listing U.S. presidents, he doesn’t even reach George Bush Sr. Likewise, a small television set is the only technology on display. This uncanniness adds to the atmosphere, the overwhelming feeling of encroaching doom. Even when nothing particularly scary is happening, the sensation that it’s about to at any moment is suffocating. 

Overall, Picard’s film is unsettling, tense and incredibly strange. The performances, particularly from Adler, are borderline over-the-top, while the styling (J.P.’s harshly-parted curly hair resembles that of The IT Crowd’s lovable nerd, Moss) is deliberately meant to evoke feelings of disquiet, in keeping with the creepy tiki mask haphazardly placed among reams of books. This will distance certain viewers, as will the lack of any concrete explanation, which may leave those looking to understand every single moment unsatisfied, but this is arguably a film that rewards repeat viewings to spot its many intricacies. Picard may have been inspired by a legendary short story, but with The Bloodhound, his horrifying vision is utterly singular. 

Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.

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