In their 3.5 Bloody Knife review, E.L. King calls their Popcorn Frights Film Festival viewing of Blood Conscious a slow burning story with social commentary not so subtly hidden around every corner. This horror film wasn’t much of a scare. It was, however, an interesting portrayal of fear and what breeds it.
It begins with a quote and concludes in a mess of bloody chaotic confusion on a lake off Old Bear Road. This film was unexpected to say the least. In his feature film debut, writer/director Timothy Covell tells a story about the night after a bloody massacre. Blood Conscious opens with a young engaged couple and a younger brother in tow on a backcountry road headed to their parents’ lake cottage for vacation. Unbeknownst to the trio, their parents, along with everyone from the neighboring cottages has been slaughtered. The bloodbath stops there however. This is definitely not a Slasher film.
Covell quickly pivots the narrative from a survive the night slasher to a who goes there tale of fear. With social commentary not so subtly hidden around every corner. This horror film wasn’t much of a scare. It was, however, an interesting portrayal of fear and what breeds it. It’s a psychological thriller fueled by paranoia and infected by racial and social tensions.
"For he is not a man as I am that we should come together; neither is there any that might lay his hand upon us both. Him, therefore, take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me."
Tensions are established early on between the trio’s drive to the lake before settling on the lonely road itself. It felt like instantly being transported back in time as a menacing melody played with the frame focused on the winding road while the opening credits appeared. It was reminiscent of the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and Ti West’s The House of the Devil (2009). Unable to connect with her parents to announce their arrival, Brittney (DeShawn White, The Deuce) and her fiancé, Tony (Lenny Thomas, Tyler Perry’s Ruthless) arrive at the lake cottages and awaken Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje, Beyonce’s Black Is King) who has fallen asleep in the backseat.
An eerie quiet hangs in the air and we are immediately clued into the possibility that something is amiss through subtle clues that Brittney, Tony and Kevin either don’t concern themselves with or don’t notice. One clue in particular that goes unseen is shotgun shell casings on the ground outside. Kevin discovers the massacre by the lakeside, where his parents and neighbors all lie dead. First discovering his mother, Kevin utters softly before stumbling backward to find the body of his father and the Killer (Nick Damici, Stake Land) armed with a shotgun, who appears perfectly coherent, yet fearful after killing everyone. The Killer asks them one question, "Are you human or are you demons?" His conviction that his killings were justified because everyone was a demon implants an idea that begins to slowly take root. What follows is a distressing night of confusion, paranoia, violence, fear and mistrust. The ending was just as unexpected as the rest of the film and the audience is left to determine the final outcome.
Being left with more answers than questions will likely be rattling to some. Who is human? Who is a demon? Were there ever any demons to begin with? Covell successfully leaves us guessing all the way through and honestly, not having the answers is both brilliant and utterly maddening. It felt like a display of what it might look like if you explored that old adage from the 1933 inaugural address of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes”.
Blood Conscious is set to release on September 18, 2021 and is now playing at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival and available to view on demand with ticket or pass purchases. Dark Sky Films will also be bringing it to you this month in select theaters and Digital/VOD platforms on August 20, 2021.