Synopsis: A visit to a wealthy and reclusive friend lands a young man in a world of fear and despair.
Stars: Liam Aiken, Joe Adler, Annalise Basso, McNally Sagal, Kimleigh Smith
Director: Patrick Picard
Running Length: 72 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: It seems that since we’re in this quarantine/lock-down/social distance phase for the long-haul, the arrival of more curated streaming content has been coming down the pike and that’s good news for those looking for titles that don’t get cycled from one of the Big Three streamers to the next. There’s a nice selection of British TV/Mysteries from BritBox and Acorn, not to mention the wonderful collection (and quality of display) from the Criterion Channel, and every October I find myself subscribing to Shudder and then keeping my account active for a few months after to catch up on original and hard-to-find horror programming I’ve missed this past year. You don’t just have to have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to keep yourself full of content as the winter months approach.
Entering the arena on a larger scale in 2020 is Arrow, the British boutique specialist label that distributes a treasure trove of intriguing titles in world cinema, cult, art, horror and classic films on Blu-ray and DVD. A number of their releases are region coded which means that what will play in a Blu-ray player in Europe won’t play in the United States and vice versa…which makes importing these titles a no-go unless you have a region-free player, often an expensive investment. With the arrival of Arrow’s fully curated site, many of these titles are available through their new platform, providing a connection to previously unattainable films, many of which come with the extras produced exclusively by Arrow for these releases.
In addition, Arrow is also getting into the film business themselves and with the first venture they’ve brought forth a quirky, irksome, and eventually tiresome loose adaptation of The House of Usher tantalizingly called The Bloodhound. If I’m being honest, I watched the entire 72-minute feature and only after did I make the connection the film was taking on Poe with a more morose (is that possible with Poe?) twist. Everything about the movie is either underplayed by seven notches or delivered without any emotional weight, robbing the viewer the chance to find any frazzled nerve to get a jolt from. It doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Francis (Liam Aiken) has accepted an invitation from his old friend Jean Paul Luret (Joe Adler) to his family home far from prying eyes. The Luret Family has a checkered past and all that remain are Jean Paul and his sister Vivian (Annalise Basso), living a strange co-dependent life of the über-rich. When Francis arrives, he finds Vivian locked away in her room not wanting to see anyone and Jean Paul bearing the markings of a recent confrontation with his sister. Claiming she has grown increasingly volatile in the past weeks, Jean Paul forbides Francis from trying to see Vivian while he’s staying there. As the men reconnect through a handful of unique displays of true friendship, despite Jean Paul’s tendency for the dramatic and penchant for bouts of extreme selfishness, the middle-class Francis finds he enjoys benefitting from his wealthy friend that has smiled upon him.
It’s at night when things get dicey. First, Vivian enters his room and warns him of pending danger. Then a sleep walking Jean Paul relates a dream he’s had of a man with no face that has found his way into the house, a man lying in wait to destroy them once the inhabitants have achieved a kind of peace. Crawling on his stomach out of a nearby lake, we’ve already seen him but was this before or after the events that are occurring now? This man is known as The Bloodhound and we’ll see him throughout the rest of the film, though we’re never quite sure how he’s factoring into the relationship between Jean Paul and Francis until it’s all over…or will we?
Though it has the makings of a taut two-hander, first-time director Patrick Picard favors style over substance and muddled musings over musicality of sharp dialogue. Either by direction or ability, a number of Aiken’s lines come off drained of feeling, like he’s telling you he’s just ate a piece of bread. There’s no discernable emotion from one line to the next, rendering them all a gray ball of bland. The opposite is true for Adler who never met a pensive thought he couldn’t turn into a watery eyed revelation that shakes him to the core. It’s all just a little much on the part of both actors and, if anything, it’s their awkwardness that prevents you from falling under whatever spell Picard was trying to cast. The only scene that carried some semblance of weight is a charged one between the two men watching a home movie that suggest there’s a level to their relationship that’s unresolved.
Visually, the movie is sharp as a tack, so it’s too bad the performances don’t have that same focus, not to mention the free-wheeling script. The Bloodhound dream that Jean Paul relates sends the requisite chill and I leaned forward thinking the film was beginning to get interesting, but Picard sacrifices that intensity of mood for more unbalanced back and forth between Aiken and Adler. Though it ends with the kind of wicked wallop I craved the other 68 minutes to have, it doesn’t keep The Bloodhound from failing the sniff test. Still…give Arrow’s new streaming platform a go because their current content is excellent and I’m guessing it will only get more robust.
ARROW is available in the US and Canada on the following Apps/devices: Android (all Android devices), Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc) and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com. Arrow Video is offering fans a 30 day free trial of ARROW, and subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 annually. A UK rollout is planned for 2021.