“Get out of here. You’ll die with the rest of us!” So comes the prophecy of a night-time visitor, who then slinks away into the darkness leaving our protagonist wondering what on Earth just happened, or if it even happened at all. It’s ominous, brooding and irrational, yet The Bloodhound somehow manages to cook everything together and serve up a flavourless dish of pastiche-horror.
Given that the film is a semi-adaptation/updating of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, it would be wise to tread lightly if mid-century Gothic thrillers are not up your avenue. Essentially a two-hander as Francis (Liam Aiken) is welcomed into the home of his old, long-estranged friend Jean Paul, aka “JP” (Joe Adler, channelling his inner Toby Jones through unblinking stares and hushed metaphors). JP is wealthy yet lonely, suffering from a mystery illness which has caused him to reach out to his old pal and invite him to stay, as they work through their problems together by rekindling their relationship.
As a debut feature from writer-director Patrick Picard, The Bloodhound has all the trappings of greatness. For one, it looks tremendous. Cinematographer Jake Magee captures the minimalist beauty which surrounds the isolated world we wander into: the interior décor, the costume design, even the meticulous and leisurely editing. All coalesce to produce a confident, unnerving viewing experience.
Anchored to all this success however, is a meandering character study of two performances plucked from any number of chillers over the years. Aiken and Adler are somewhat in the clear here, doing what they can with the odd and unengaging material, but they’re not completely worthy of a free pass. JP’s characterisation as aloof and cold is regressively queer-coded, becoming more and more tedious with each passing scene. The power dynamics in play are obvious, but unthreatening; Felix’s biggest dangers appearing not in the form of his whispering chum, but instead as the nocturnal appearances of Vivian (a wasted Annalise Basso) as well as the titular Bloodhound, a masked being who crawls around looking for the J-Horror film they accidentally slipped out of.
The lasting feeling from the film is one of regret; the rueing of a missed opportunity. Picard’s direction is effortless and the behind the scenes work created so skilfully that you can’t ignore the fact the director has everything he needs to put himself through on goal with an empty net agape. As soon as we are treated to art-school dialogue however – “I’m afraid I’m going to have to confiscate that camera…and then strangle you to death.” – it’s undeniable that the ball hasn’t merely been hoofed over the bar, but instead completely out of the stands and we are forced to watch in horror as every interesting angle is choked out of the story in favour of beats we are not only familiar with, but of which we are tired.
The Bloodhound is a mystery without purpose; a film so desperate for ambiguity that it forgets to sprinkle any clues amongst it’s ambient space. Thankfully, it’s not going to waste too much of your time as it does so.
Available on the Arrow Channel and Blu-ray now