The Bloodhound [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (31st March 2021).
The Film

"The Bloodhound" (2020)

Upon viewing this film, I immediately began to ponder if there was an established genre of cinema that would include this film; the closest that I could come up with was The Old Dark House genre of films that were hugely successful throughout the late 1920’s and into the 1930’s. Trademarks of the genre were old gloomy mansions, often in states of neglect, pouring rainstorms, crazed occupants, families suffering from an unnamed illness, mysterious hands that would appear without warning, insane relatives that were locked in the attic. Usually, they were very much like the haunted house pictures of the day, but often lacking in any supernatural undercurrents. Many studios churned these films out often to fill the lower bills of a double feature. They were inexpensive, long on atmosphere and short on plot lines. A few of these were silent films such as The Bat (Roland West, 1926), The Cat and The Canary (Paul Leni, 1927), The Gorilla (Alfred Santell, 1927) and several sound remakes continuing on through the 30’s, such as The Bat Whispers (Roland West, 1930), The Cat Creeps (Rupert Julian, 1930), and The Cat and the Canary (Elliot Nugent, 1939). An exemplary example of this genre is a film actually entitled The Old Dark House, directed by James Whale in 1932 starring Boris Karloff and Ernest Thesiger, both of whom were to star in Whale’s successful hit The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Whale attached a serious Gothic mood to the film using lighting effects from The Cabinet of Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919) and utilized a sensibility of early German Expressionist cinema which included starkly bared sets and long held still shots. A decadent air of deterioration and an atmosphere of erosion populates the film. Everywhere that you look you see the remains of a house that has long been neglected and should rightfully be abandoned. Picard’s film is a cracked mirror’s reflection of Whale’s film except that Picard’s house is extremely neat and ordered, but it also feels suffocatingly sealed as if it’s occupants were insects in a jar. Reading the essay in the accompanying booklet entitled “Director’s Statement” there is mention of how the film is a completely unfaithful adaption of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and I can see Poe’s influence in the film’s narrative. You have the somewhat incestuous relationship of J.P. and his unseen sister, Vivian (Annalise Basso), there is mention of other family members that have passed on, and most of all, there is the house that becomes a character in itself. However, let’s return to the beginning of the film where we shall examine this often times mysterious film.

Adhering to classic Gothic beginnings, Francis (Liam Aiken) is summoned by letter to the secluded home of an old-time childhood friend. J.P. Luret (Joe Adler) is the host and he seemingly is doing his best Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922) impression as he silently appears behind Francis while he focuses his camera on some urns that are sitting on a table near the entrance. “I don’t allow pictures of my family” announces J.P. “Now I will be forced to kill you.” Thus, establishing the morbid tone for the rest of the film. Though the two have not seen each other for ten years, the men try to rekindle their original friendship. There is plenty of mystery on display and unfortunately there isn’t much in response to the typical questions that one has, however as the film progresses the viewer may be allowed to wallow in its cold waters. Viewers that are accustomed to having complete backstories given to them will be found grasping at straws here as the uncanny becomes the norm. Nuanced performances are the order of the day as the cast is extremely small and there are very few interruptions from the outside world. In fact, there is no computers on display and zero cell phones utilized; it is as if the film were made in an era that preceded these developments. In a scene that is somewhat telling, the duo are viewing an older Black and White war film on a small screen television set. I believe that this is due to J.P.’s earlier comments regarding having mixed feelings upon hearing a soldier telling his comrade that he missed the other soldier. That is the sole reason why the two men are reunited again. It is unclear what exactly is Francis’ current living situation; he very well could be homeless and that is all J.P. needs to hear before Francis is invited to simply stay as a guest. J.P. carries himself as of he was from an earlier time period and his carriage and style of dress is hardly considered current. Nonetheless all of these subtle clues only hint at something that is unstated. The film is extremely suggestive in portending a definite feeling of doom and extinguished hopes and even though the house is relatively clean and tidy, there is a strong undercurrent of rot or an unexplained air of decay. I certainly must credit the set designer as to how they accomplished this without any explicable circumstances. There is no shots of rotting substances, no buzzing flies in the windows; it is all but a mere suggestion that the air is dank, and the inhabitants of the domicile are under some unmentioned spell of sorts. The majority of the film is taken up with the two male occupants, but there is a third presence in the house and that is J.P. twin sister, Vivian. We only see her on camera in two brief scenes and both of them take place at night. Vivian is mostly spoken about and Francis dares to enter her room while she is in the shower; what we see is a room that might as well have been shuttered and locked tight. The bed is made, few clothes are in the closet, some grooming implements are rigidly lined up on the bureau. There is a definitive sense of control on view hinting at a greater madness that is present. It feels as if at any moment the door will be flung open, and Vivian will enter screaming and clawing the air. However, that does not happen and instead J.P. silently appears and asks what Francis what exactly he was doing in Vivian’s room. He had been warned to leave her alone and now he was caught sneaking a look. J.P. seems to have some hidden motive to his actions, but the exact nature of those longings is completely unapparent. I immediately began to suspect some sordid type of incestuous behavior, a Flowers in the Attic vibe.

There follows scene after scene of the duo as they share a meal, watch a movie on TV, and even an intimate concert for the two men with a visiting soprano and her pianist. During the concert scene, J.P. sits and stares at Francis with a stare that is openly disconcerting, but we see no reaction from Francis, and we don’t know if he is merely ignoring J.P. evasive eyes or if he is accustomed to this from his friend. Earlier in a scene that is mildly amusing, the two men act out a strange game where they both are encompassed in sleeping bags and engage in a wrestling match. Later when Francis objects to J.P.’s roughhousing, J.P. responds that it has been a while and that he hasn’t had much opportunity to play. Later on, in an uncomfortable scene, J.P, plays a video for Francis of some type of lesbian activity; we learn from the conversation, that J.P. was the person filming the activity and that the performers were expensive prostitutes. The entire scene plays out in a perverted manner and it is unclear what J.P.’s motive was; that Is until J.P. makes a hasty grab for Francis’ crotch and then is rebuffed with a punch in the nose. This brings another layer of unexplored territory to the film and I started to wonder was there going to be a homosexual subplot like in the film Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta, 2000). Again, the viewer is not given enough of anything definite to make a sound judgement regarding the characters and their actions.

Ultimately, we have a climax that is somewhat conclusive as both J.P. and his sister are laid out in a wine vault in the cellar. The cause of death is unknown and even though it had been hinted at that J.P. was ill of a unnamed illness, we ultimately are left with a puzzle that is lacking several important parts. Francis is informed by two bureaucrats that J.P. left him a final note and that Francis is the sole heir to the apparent fortune with its estate. The note reads “Now you know what its like to have everything and not have a friend.” This is certainly a damning statement and the viewer is left to wonder what did all this mean? The film closes and we are left with an inexplicable feeling of isolation and immobility. So, who was the strange man that crawled out of the river with a burlap bag obscuring his features and what did he represent other than a dream like object or symbol? The Bloodhound in question is also a mystery that ultimately is dangled before us, but it is ultimately up to the viewer what to make of this tale. Roll the credits!

Video

The color palette of the film is muted tans and blues with an occasional flash of red. The great majority of the film takes place indoors and usually at night, but the overall presentation is one that seems to exert great care. Blacks are bold and extremely dark with an overall consistency that is eye pleasing.

Audio

The soundtrack is sparse and infrequent however Ali Helnwein’s score is a nervous combination of off-key woodwinds and plucked strings which adds to the overall suspense.

Extras

There is an audio commentary featuring the director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorta that is filled with inside information regarding the production.

Four experimental shorts by the director:
- Bad Dream (1:06)
- The Muffled Hammerfall in Action (0:51)
- The Mosaic Code (0:32)
- Wiggleworm (0:49)

These are all student films, but the director believes that they represent an overall mood.

On the Trail of The Bloodhound: Behind the Scenes of a Modern Chiller: (45:21). An exclusive making of featurette including the stars and the people behind the scenes.

First Pressing Only: Illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Blier.

Packaging

Transparent Blu-ray case with reversible artwork by Tony Stella.

Overall

The film looks and sounds great. The production technique is slick and professional and the high-definition Blu-ray rocks. This is an interesting film that will only get better with repeated viewings. Arrow always presents a first-class item.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Overall: A

 


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