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Film Review: Blood Ransom (2014)

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SYNOPSIS:

A young woman fights the monster she’s becoming to save the life of the man she loves.

REVIEW:

Director: Francis dela Torre
Writer: Francis dela Torre
Stars: Anne Curtis, Alexander Dreymon

When I was graciously enveloped into the fold that is the HorrorNews team, I was assigned the honourable role of “crappy film reviewer”. A role I wholeheartedly and happily dove into with pride and gusto. You see, I’ve seen many a crap film in my time. My mates and I would purposely scour the shelves of our local video store to find crap films to watch. These craptasticly horrific films made me confident in the belief that I had seen the worst of the worst, the crappiest of the crap… And then I was assigned Blood Ransom.

We begin this “story” with straight up exposition removing any back story for our lead character Crystal, played by the beautiful but emotionally flat, Anne Curtis. Her parents are dead and Crystal took to the “night” to find solace, but the “night” is bad, mmkay. She is turned to a vampire by flaccid baddy, Roman. In dela Torre’s lore of vampires, not only can they willingly and happily walk in sunlight (thank Shiva they didn’t sparkle), any newly turned vampires have just 7 days to suck their first victim otherwise… I really don’t know what happens if they don’t. All I do know is that if they don’t want to do it, they can kill themselves with a special knife that is individual to each vampire. Oh, and they have to be stabbed in the throat, not in the heart, because… you know… Seriously, I’m asking you if you know because I have no friggin’ idea why!

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After some cop show noir-esque voice over from our third wheel in the “story”, Oliver, played by the even more emotionally flat Dion Basco, we are hurtled slap bang in the middle of Crystal’s 7 day suck-itiation. Not only that, she is also in love with Jeremiah (Alexander Dreymon). “Who’s he?!” I hear you ask, and to that I say, “Exactly”. For our second main character and love interest, we’re given as little back story as possible to him also.

So, right off the bat you couldn’t give a flying f#ck about these characters. No backstory is shown. We don’t witness the grief and sadness Crystal goes through when her family died. We don’t see Crystal and Jeremiah’s courtship or love blossom. We don’t see Jeremiah and Oliver’s friendship in action. We don’t see Crystal turned by the resident baddy. We are literally told that all this has happened and is happening, and then forced into the middle of this mediocre affair. Without an emotional connection made with our characters we don’t vouch for them. We don’t care for them. Blood Ransom is doomed from the start.

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The rest of the “story” involves overly dramatic dialog, peachiness, over-arty shots, scenes that made no sense due to the brevity of them and baddies showing up at our hero’s locations without a reason as to how they knew the heroes were there in the first place. Oh, and photos. Lots of photos. No matter who you are in this film, you just leave photos of yourself and your friends laying around the place. Very convenient for detectives.

Here’s a tip: if you know a hitman is coming to your place of work for you, and you decide to run away to your little hidden shack, don’t leave an envelope with pictures of and the address to said shack laying on the table at your workplace. It’s just not a smart thing to do, okay?

Oliver also had a framing story for the film, something to make a reason for his noir-tastic voice over to be relevant. This story was essentially a bloating non-event. If all of it was removed the film would still function as is without any re-work required. That’s how redundant this side story and voice over was. It did not offer anything.

Even the sex scenes are as emotionless as two robots bumping uglies to the Electric Dreams theme song, and both leads are very attractive people. How does one mess that up?!

Acting was emotionless and bland by most, or over-hammed and dramatic by others. There was no middle ground here. Half of it was due to the script and dialog, the other half due to the actors. Dion Basco only knew one emotion and tone. Any attempt at affection and lust between Anne Curtis and Alexander Dreymon was as believable as a well-endowed man in a miniskirt pretending to be a lady. The complete lack of back story didn’t help this either.

Cinematography was ambitious, I give it that. There were some seriously art-tastic shots at work here, so kudos are deserved, though minimal. However, every now and again the amateur shone through. Shots where the crew’s shadows reflected off cars are a sure sign that this is not the work of a seasoned professional. The lighting needed work too. No matter what time of day it was, the actors were always bathed in light so you could see them perfectly.

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Writer/Director Francis dela Torre completely ignores the old writer’s idioms of “Show, don’t tell” and “Start a scene late, and end it early”. Everything is told to you, or, worse yet, not told or shown but expected that you know what the f#ck is happening. This is the epitome of poor writing. Francis also starts many scenes so late that you feel like you’re missing half the story because of it. It’s jarring and disruptive to the narrative and often negates the emotion and/or drama he’s trying to emote because you just catch a glimpse of what’s meant to happen.

The film plays out like dela Torre’s little secret. A lot happens without you having the faintest idea why or how, mainly because it happens off screen. I am certain that dela Torre knows why and how, because he wrote the friggin’ script, but without showing the audience these secrets, we are left as bereft and disjointed as the film. If you have to rewind a scene to figure things out or assume things, that’s a sure sign that the writing and direction is poor. Having to do this numerous times through the film pretty much proves this. This is no Primer folks, there is nothing cerebral to Blood Ransom that requires you to re-watch scenes to work complexities out. Blood Ransom is simply a disjointed mess.

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Blood Ransom is a perfect example of why a writer MUST have their script read by folk other than their mother, friends and people they’ve paid to be in their employ. If dela Torre paid for a professional coverage service (or two), or got somebody out of his circle to read it, they would have pointed the mess before he spewed it onto film. They would have said “Hey dude, how did Roman know that Crystal and Jeremiah were at the house?” and “Why didn’t Roman steal her back then or at the very least kill Jeremiah? Isn’t that why he sent his hitman after them and why the whole f#cking film is in existence? If Roman can’t kill because of the crappy reason given to us later, then why didn’t the hitman kill Jeremiah the 3 times he had the obvious chance to? Why didn’t Roman bring the hitman along with him to the shack to collect Crystal and kill Jeremiah?” or “How did that other vampire guy know that Crystal would go to the Psychic and how did Crystal even know about the psychic? It was never established that she knew her”, or maybe “How the hell did Oliver know where to go to find Crystal and Jeremiah at the climax? Does his GPS have a special vampire finding setting?” The film could have been salvaged in some way if he just got an outsider to scrutinise it, surely. I’m an optimist after all…

Don’t let the 7.2 score on IMDB fool you folks. It was obviously rated by the same circle of friends who gave dela Torre a thumbs up when he showed them his “script”. Too flaccid and emotionally bereft to be enjoyed by tweens and those who love the Twilight series, too convoluted and dull to be enjoyed by horror fans, it is my conclusion that Blood Ransom should not be seen by anyone.

0 out of 5 whatevers.

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