Review: It’s In The Blood
Review by Annie Riordan
Every photograph leaves behind a negative image of itself, an inversion of darkness on light and shadow on sun. Can the same be said for photographic memories? And if so, where are those negatives stored?
October – much like his namesake – is beautiful but melancholy. Returning home after a long estrangement, he’s doubtful that any good will come of his reunion with his dad, Russell. The old homestead in the Texas back country holds too many bad memories, and the passage of time hasn’t changed a thing. October’s return is more like a step back in time. The house is just the same, his dad hasn’t aged a day and his sister Iris is still dead, still sleeping beneath the headstone in the yard.
Iris’s death is the one thing that October and Russell do not discuss, but which neither of them can forget. It stands huge and silent between them, eating away at them, but they talk around it, pretend it’s not really there. Russell suggests a hunting trip. October agrees. They talk about October’s time drifting around the United States and studying medicine. They bond over a sweet, fast car. But the subject comes up sooner rather than later, and it’s clear that October very much blames Russell for Iris’s premature and violent death. If Russell hadn’t been such a goddamned drunk, maybe he could have saved her. But if October blames Russell, he blames himself even more. Iris was not his sister by blood, and it was their blossoming love for one another that brought about her death in the form of a jealous and psychopathic suitor. October couldn’t save Iris either, and he reminds himself of this fact every single day, adding another cut to his already horrifically scarred body.
Deep in the woods and miles from civilization, Russell takes a bad fall that snaps his leg. Stranded, October must put his survival skills to the ultimate test. His photographic memory provides him with the medical knowledge he needs to care for Russell’s wounds and keep them safe through the long, cold night. But those photographic memories of Iris and her tragic end are still there too, and seem to have spawned a negative afterimage. There’s something in the woods, circling both father and son like vultures around roadkill. Is it a ghost? A monster? A genius loci? Is it the imprint of violence taking physical form and forcing October to confront it? Or is it something October himself has produced, quite unintentionally, from his deep reservoir of guilt and anger? Whatever it is, it has claws. And it’s hungry.
Much like 2001’s seriously underrated psycho-thriller Session 9, It’s In The Blood is a horror film in which the horror comes from within the characters, swallowing them whole like a cancer. Each character is their own protagonist and antagonist. Yes, there are monsters and yes, we do get to see them and they are scary, but how much of them comes from the negativity stored within October and Russell’s dark memories? Would they even exist if not for the return of the prodigal son? It’s doubtful. Of all the predators that pose the most threat to humans, our own memories are the most heartless and do the most damage.
But that’s not to say that It’s In The Blood is an hour and a half of dry therapy sessions. It’s a brutal survival film wrapped around a hard paranormal seed. No matter where the monsters came from, they must be dealt with: by fire, by shotgun, by elaborate booby traps, by whatever October can toss together out of the raw material he has to work with. And when that busted leg of Russell’s starts to go bad…well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m pretty well desensitized to blood and gore, but man…I had to look away for a second or two. I damn near launched my lunch.
The majority of this film is a two man act, and both veteran Lance Henriksen and relative newcomer Sean Eliot carry it off well. More than well, actually. They shoulder this shit better than Atlas himself could have done. I will go so far as to say that this is one of Lance Henriksen’s best performances ever. Watching him fake an orgasm was one of the very few highlights of my horror movie watching year. He’s funny, he’s pathetic, he’s endearing, he’s an asshole, he encompasses Russell like no other character he’s ever played and disappears into the part entirely. I love Lance Henriksen and have been a mighty big fan of his for years, watching anything and everything he’s been in, from the awesome (Pumpkinhead, Aliens, Near Dark, Powder – stfu, I liked that movie) to the not-so-awesome (The Horror Show, mostly) and he really seems to be having fun living in Russell’s body, so much so that I actually forgot it was Henriksen a couple of times whilst watching. No slouch either is Eliot, who smolders with an intensity that damn near burns the film off its reels.
This is a very rare breed of horror film, one driven by characters and emotion, rather than blood and body counts. If you’re looking for the standard insipid slasher churning out the bodies of one-dimensional, sex obsessed teenagers, yeah, you’re probably going to hate this movie. Those looking for some substance would do well to check out It’s In The Blood. It may well appeal to fans of Session 9, as well as Predator and maybe just a little bit Blair Witch, but it also stands very well all on its own in a class by itself.
Don’t be afraid to invest your brain and your heart as well as your time into this one. It’s well worth the effort.