Main Cast: Vinessa Shaw, James Ransone
Director: Sonny Mallhi
When I saw this movie in the recently added section of Netflix, two words stood out and made me immediately add it to my queue.
I’ll watch Vinessa Shaw do damn near anything, so I was definitely going to watch this movie. Then I watched the trailer. Yeah, it looks alright. They maybe shouldn’t give away in the trailer that it’s a vampire movie, like I just did right there, because I think a LITTLE mystery in the first 20 minutes would have been a good thing, but ultimately even making that discovery naturally during the course of watching the movie wouldn’t have been enough to save it.
Family Blood is a very pedestrian movie.
Shaw plays Ellie, recovering pill addict who has just moved to a new town with the two teenage children, Kyle and Amy, she recently regained custody of. She’s trying hard to get her life together, is working again and attending meetings. It’s a rough start because her kids have already been through so much because of her addiction, they’re not quite ready to start trusting her just yet … but she’s trying.
Then one night a new guy shows up at her meeting, Christopher (James Ranson, Deputy So-And-So from the Sinister movies). His story is more of the same, he tears through people, uses them up until there’s nothing left, leaves chaos in his wake. But he wants to get better.
All of this would have been more intriguing and not so obvious if the trailer hadn’t already revealed the vampire angle. Anyway, Ellie sees a homeless kid from her meeting at the park on the way home and stops to see if he’s alright. He’s just fine. In fact, he’s got some pills if Ellie wants to try one.
And she does. So Vampire So-And-So intervenes, gives her some of his blood to purge her system, then breaks her neck. She wakes soon after and makes her shambling way home.
And from there, this movie devolves into one bad vampire movie cliché after another.
Ellie can’t seem to keep any food down, until she takes some thawed steaks out of the fridge and sees the blood, which she immediately dips her finger it and licks. She notices her newfound immunity to pain and marks up her hand with a dozen cigarette burns that are completely healed by the next morning. And the most egregious sin of this type of movie: while Ellie’s daughter Amy is lying in her mother’s lap during movie night, Ellie notices the steady beat of Amy’s pulse as she stares down at her daughter’s neck. Yawn.
I had a moment of hope when Vampire So-And-So tries to ease her into the transition and Ellie tells him to leave her alone, but remember Ellie is an addict the last act of this movie is just Ellie and Kyle reliving the tropes of a drughead boyfriend trying to move in on mom and take over the house as she lies drugged up and dreaming in bed all day.
I get the symbolism, it’s not even trying to be subtle, but good Lord, did they have to be so heavy handed about it? Once again, yawn.
This movie, man. Sheesh. You know, if you want to make a movie about addiction, make a movie about addiction. Don’t try and dress it up as a vampire movie. It’s not only been done before, it’s been done a LOT, and rarely ever successfully. And Family Blood is just another in a long line of same old same old. Vampires are like drug addicts. We get it.
And this movie had potential, lots of it. This kind of story CAN be done well. But it just felt so much like they came to the story with only a vague idea of what they wanted to convey, not a lot of thought or effort was put into making it anything more than this very simple ABC by the numbers plot.
The performances were decent, but nothing worth praising, really. I got the feeling most of what we saw from the characters was on the page, strictly character profile stuff, but all surface level, easily manufactured for the story. I certainly never got the feeling these characters existed before their first shot in this movie.
And the vampire angle. Meh. They aren’t the mythological version that is killed by sunlight or weakens in the presence of religious icons. There was a short, interesting bit where Kyle has a list of ways to kill a vampire and Vampire So-And-So refutes most of them. But it’s over as soon as it begins and we go right back to the slog.
God, I wanted to like this movie. And I’m not saying I hate it. I’m saying next week I’ll remember Vinessa Shaw and James Ransone were in it and that’s all. And I hate to admit, but that seems to happen to me with a lot of Shaw movies. But I’ll keep watching them when they turn up, and God willing, one of these days there’ll be one I find so amazing I have to sing its praises. And on that day, I hope it’s Shaw who shines the brightest and makes me glad I dared watch just one more Vinessa Shaw movie. Because I love me some Vinessa Shaw. But her ration of great movies to bad isn’t the best in the world. Guess I’ll just go watch The Hills Have Eyes remake again.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.