I have to assume that it wouldn't be a stretch to say that many film-fans have dreams of making movies themselves. And I would wager that most of those people have made statements like, "If I ever got to make a movie, I would make the best movie that I could." This may seem like a obvious statement, but I think that we've all seen movies where those involved didn't really seem to be trying. The makers of Bloodlines may not have made a great movie, but it's clear that they had a vision of pushing a certain genre and they've made a memorable film.
Bloodlines tells the story of Amber Strickland (Grace Johnston), a young woman from Alabama who is driving through Kentucky on her way to college. She experiences car trouble (which wasn't an accident) and is abducted by the Hackford clan and taken to their ramshackle house. There, Amber awakens to find herself imprisoned with two other young women, Jenny (Tracy Kay Wolfe) and Shawna (Lesa Mason). We soon learn that Billy Bob Hackford (Jason Padgett), the leader of the clan has devised a plan to put a halt to the inbreeding in his clan. The family kidnaps unsuspecting women and then Billy Bog impregnates them. In order to choose the best women for breeding, the Hackford's has the women fight to the death. Meanwhile, Amber's brothers, Brody (Douglas Tait) and Bear (Dorian Kingi), who are professional bowhunters, have learned that Amber is missing and they set out to find her.
At first glance, Bloodlines may look like yet another Texas Chainsaw Massacre clone, as the innocent are kidnapped from lonely roads and held captive. However, the movie is actually a throwback to 70s sicko-shockers as Three on a Meathook and Invasion of the Blood Farmers, or the notorious 1980 nasty, Mother's Day. Bloodlines isn't particularly gory, but it doesn't pull any punches when it comes to heinous misogyny and violence towards women. There are multiple scenes of women being raped and beaten throughout the film, and of course, there are the scenes where the women are forced to fight. And then we have the very graphic portrayal of the deformed inbred members of the Hackford family, who can't speak and are covered in sores. Honestly, I didn't think they made movies like this anymore.
Is Bloodlines reprehensible? Sure, some may say so, but it's still just a movie. And in refusing to pull any punches, directors Stephen Durham and Masao Kingi have at least made a movie which isn't boring and demands attention. (Actually, on the audio commentary, Durham admits that they did pull back on the gore for fear of getting an NC-17.) Despite the fact that the movie can be difficult to watch, there's something happening in every scene. The film's main plot may be dated (more on that in a moment), but the introduction of the two brothers who set out to rescue their sister is interesting. Brody and Bear aren't urbanites -- as in Deliverance for example -- they are good old boys too. But, unlike the Hackfords, they are civilized. So, we essentially get a redneck vs. redneck war in the finale.
Despite the fact that Bloodlines' sheer brutality makes it noticeable, the movie still has some issues. The bottom line is that the movie isn't very original. It merely apes the aforementioned old-school grindhouse movies but adds a modern flair. The movie doesn't contain any great plot twists, nor do we get a great deal of backstory on any of the characters. The movie drags in the middle, where it turns into one torture scene after another. (Don't feel bad if you have to fast-forward.) The acting ranges from good to merely adequate, but Johnston, who has to basically carry the film, is good, and Padgett makes for a good psycho.
Bloodlines gets the attention of NOW on DVD courtesy of ThinkFilm. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Unlike many of today's homegrown shockers, Bloodlines was shot on film and looks pretty good. There is some very noticeable flickering during the first few scenes, but this eventually stops. The image is clear, showing only a slight bit of grain. The colors look fine. Much of the film takes place at night or in dimly lit rooms, but the action is always visible. I didn't see any distracting video noise or artifacting.
The DVD has a stereo 2.0 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The bulk of the sound comes from the center channel, but there was no hissing or distortion. The sound is quite clean and the in-film music never overpowers the dialogue. I noted some stereo effects, but not many.
The Bloodlines DVD contains two extras, one of which is a TRAILER for the film, which is not 16 x 9. The other extra is an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring director Stephen Durham, actor Jason Padgett, and producers Rickie Castaneda, and Zoran Jacimovic. This is an interesting chat as the foursome gives us many details about the making of the film. They are very specific about locations and certain locations were procured. We learn that nearly actor was a last minute fill-in and it's a wonder that the movie was even made at all. Shot entirely in Alabama and Florida, we get a good primer on regional filmmaking from this commentary.
Reviewing a movie like Bloodlines is never easy. This type of horror film really isn't my thing. I've grown tired of the "innocent person accosted/assaulted by rural people" genre, and I'm really not into torture-porn. But, for what it is, Bloodlines is successful. The movie is rarely dull and will definitely create a response in the viewer. If you love indie horror and thought that Wrong Turn was too pedestrian, then Bloodlines may be for you.