20 January 2008 | Coventry
Gritty and harrowing drama from New Zealand
Admittedly the title sounds like it's stolen from a lousy and cheesy 80's B-slasher movie, but "Bad Blood" is one of the most hauntingly dramatic depictions of a real-life human tragedy ever made. Set in New Zealand in 1938 and revolving on painful facts as they occurred there, "Bad Blood" tells the story of Stanley Graham and his wife Dorothy. They're outcasts in the small village community because of their rude and asocial behavior and the accumulation of financial problems slowly drives them to insanity. Stanley nearly has to go to prison for refusing to turn in his riffles and the woeful regards of the townsfolk become more and more hostile when the Grahams accuse them of poisoning their cattle. The script slowly and atmospherically builds up towards the inevitable tragedy of Stanley going irreversibly berserk and butchering seven people during a nightmarish rampage. This beautiful period piece, with marvelous costumes and set pieces, draws a mesmerizing portrait of human paranoia and despair. It also frighteningly illustrates how quickly a chain of little and seemingly insignificant events can escalate into a bloodbath, and that's truly disturbing to say the least. The sober music and gloomy photography epitomize the depressing tone of the film and Jack Thompson gives away one of the most perplexing performances I've ever seen. He should have received awards for his role, and the film in general as well for that matter. Carol Burns is equally amazing as his Dot, who may not have killed anyone but who's at least as dangerous as her husband, if not more. The climax sequences, revolving on the extended manhunt for Stanley after he fled into the open country, are also very gripping and effectively revealing the monstrous nature of people. Suddenly, the little town is overrun with people carrying riffles, most of them even unaware of the details of what happened exactly, simply to join the vigilante hunt for Stanley. No less than Mike Newell directed this sadly obscure little gem back in 1981. Nowadays he's an acclaimed director of slightly more light-headed films, like "Four Weddings and a Funeral", "Love in the Times of Cholera" and "Mona Lisa Smile". The fact that Newell was born and raised in England makes it even more admirable how he's capable of reflecting the typical New Zealand characters, culture and WWII background. I'm not aware of "Bad Blood" being available on DVD now, but the day it comes out make sure you grab a copy of this tense masterpiece. I certainly will.