DVD Review: Blood Car (2007)
Review by Ben Bussey
Just what are we to do if the price of petrol – oh, alright non-British readers, we can call it gas (even though it’s clearly a liquid) – keeps on rising? Some might say it was time to give the electric car a go, but this memo obviously didn’t reach the little corner of the US which serves as home for teacher and inventor Archie Andrews (Mike Brune). With gasoline prices – ah, so it’s an abbreviation – having risen to so astronomical a level that no one can afford to drive anymore, Archie thinks he has hit upon a solution that is not only cost-effective but also fits in with his vegan lifestyle: converting his old car to run on wheatgrass juice. Unfortunately things have not been going to plan, and the engine persists in rejecting the new fuel. But all that changes when Archie happens upon the missing ingredient to make it work: I should hope you don’t need three guesses to figure out what that ingredient might be…
There’s nothing too unusual about a microbudget indie horror movie getting a DVD release after having been in the can five years; generally speaking, it turns out that the film in question is a piece of crap. However, that is most definitely not the case with Blood Car. An oddball mix of sex comedy, splatter movie and topical satire, this cheap and cheerful flick from director/co-writer Alex Orr is one of the better comedy horror films I’ve seen to date in 2012, not quite dethroning Juan of the Dead as my pick of the year thus far, but not falling too far short.
In the vein of the best exploitation, Orr and co have taken some of the big issues troubling the youth of today – in this case economic, ecological and ethical – and used them as a springboard for a weird story beefed up with plenty of gratuitous sex and violence. Mike Brune’s stereotypically awkward sensitive indie boy Archie, with his abundance of T-shirts bearing eco-friendly slogans and his brown corduroy jacket with elbow patches, is a character that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson film. A great deal of the movie is spent following him around, watching his crisis of conscience as he struggles with the implications of his discovery, and how it clashes with his worldview. The challenges facing those who embrace the vegan philosophy in a society that loves eating dead things are emphasised in a very pointed and theatrical fashion – would I be alienating readers if I used the term Brechtian? (Pun intended, Brecht fans) - given that Archie’s affections are torn between two women who work at makeshift snack booths directly opposite one another. On one side we have nerdy vegan booth attendant Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky), and on the other the promiscuous meat booth attendant Denise (an amusingly vampish and bitchy turn from Katie Rowlett).
It’s not hard to read the symbolism here: veganism/pacifism/eco-friendly living = good, meat-eating/violence/combustion engines = bad… but oh so very tempting. In no time Archie has temptations everywhere he looks. See, much as how the one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind or however the proverb goes, in the land without drivers the guy with the car has every girl in the vicinity screaming to get into his pants. Realising that the DVD horror audience might not be entirely satisfied with Wes Anderson-isms, Orr had the good sense to pepper the film with vulgarities aplenty, from a fair few good old-fashioned gratuitous tit shots to several fleeting glimpses of perverse bedroom practices. One hand-drawn doodle that shows up early on earns the 18 certificate on its own.
Somehow this seems an appropriate moment to address one of the key novelty sales points in Blood Car’s arsenal: the presence of Anna Chlumsky, star of the My Girl movies, all grown up. For the benefit of those among us hoping this might be a Poison Ivy/Embrace of the Vampire scenario, I’ll just come out and say it: no, this particular former child star does not have any nude scenes in this particular film. Sorry to have to disappoint you. However, she does give a thoroughly entertaining performance as the ditzy Lorraine, whose shy and awkward exterior hides the pent-up oestrogen of a would-be sexpot. She’s very cute and funny, and a pleasure to watch even without exposing her Chlumskies.
As a raunchy and slightly surreal comedy then, Blood Car hits the spot. There’s a very punky aesthetic at play, with agreeably anti-authoritarian overtones; I haven’t yet mentioned the numerous shady government agents monitoring Archie’s activities, who give us some of the most amusing scenes. A bigger question mark hangs over whether gorehounds will be entirely satisfied. Despite its presence in the title, the red stuff is a tad underemphasised amidst all the weirdness and raunchiness, and one or two key gags aside the gore FX are nothing too special: but, as I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear, there’s none of that crappy CG blood. In any case this is a minor complaint. Blood Car packs enough genuine wit and ingenuity to really stand apart in the microbudget horror field, and it’s well worth checking out. It’s just a shame that it’s taken this long to reach DVD, and that Alex Orr has yet to direct another feature. Here’s hoping that changes soon.
Blood Car is released to Region 2 DVD and VOD on 23rd July, from Left Films.