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Thursday, April 15, 2021

[Panic Fest Review] Paranoid Thriller ‘Blood Conscious’ Keeps You Guessing

Slashers usually end mere moments after the final girl or last remaining survivor emerges victorious, standing alone after a massacre. For his feature debut, writer/director Timothy Covell explores the events after a night of slasher-like carnage. In Blood Conscious, its leads arrive at their family cabin unaware it’s the morning after a maniac slaughtered those in the area. All connections to the subgenre stop there, with Covell instead shifting into a different subgenre by creating a psychological game of paranoia that relies on social dynamics to fuel fear and mistrust.

Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje), his older sister Brittney (DeShawn White), and her fiancé Tony (Lenny Thomas) set out for a weekend getaway at their parents’ lakeside cabin. At first, the siblings aren’t too concerned by the quiet upon arrival as it’s off-season for the area. They soon realize it’s too silent with no signs of their parents. Kevin wanders down to the lake and discovers his parents’ and neighbors’ corpses, all gunned down and blood everywhere. His screams don’t just alert Brittney and Tony, but the gunman (Late Phases and Stakeland’s Nick Damici) as well. The Stranger keeps his gun pointed at them, demanding to know whether they’re human or demon. It’s the start of a harrowing night of paranoia and violence prompted by a massacre.

Covell spends the early part of his debut setting up the dominoes by establishing core group dynamics. The academic college student Kevin presents the more innocent of the three, a complete contrast to Tony’s brawny, assertive alpha-type. Older sibling Brittney serves as the level-headed link between the two opposite personalities, often stepping in to play peacemaker when emotions rise too high from either side. At first, the trio unites against the Stranger, willing to placate to get the hostile as far away as possible. The more the man rants about demons that can possess anyone and assimilate, the more a divide emerges as more bizarre encounters exacerbate the tension. The trio presents a spectrum of those willing to believe the Stranger and the skeptics determined to maintain control over a spiraling situation.

Blood Conscious is a social thriller in the sense that power dynamics and preconceived notions play a vital part in stoking the flames of mistrust, or rather dousing them in gasoline. Though only at a superficial level and never in quite an overly heavy-handed way. Covell is much more interested in creating ambiguity that leaves you constantly guessing whether to take the insistence of shapeshifting demons at face value. He does this through shifting allegiances and suspicious character behaviors. Could they be a byproduct of desperation and extreme situations? Or is the demonic force driving the violence?

Much is withheld narratively to keep the paranoia sustainable. Perhaps more accurately, there’s not much to this story. The Stranger remains in a reactionary position in his appearances, screaming vague proclamations about a demonic presence lurking out in some equally unclear space. Confusion breeds distrust, so this makes sense. But the worldbuilding feels surface level at best, and we never get to know the characters beyond the essential defining traits that connect them. It’s only in the latter half that Blood Conscious picks up speed and gets interesting because the characters unravel and act on impulse, creating a series of tense standoffs.

Damici fares the strongest here, having a clear blast playing an unhinged role that toggles the line between friend and foe. Gbaje succeeds at engendering audience sympathy, but it takes a while for him to get comfortable playing an oft awkward Kevin. The thrills rely heavily on dialogue versus action, and it ends on a shocking yet abrupt note that raises a few more questions. The answers it does provide may also bring disappointment for some, depending on expectations. Blood Conscious is a quick, small-scaled thrilled that offers some humor to balance the darkness. It favors mood over the story, but Covell more than succeeds in leaving you hanging on its core question right until the very end.

Dark Sky Films will release Blood Conscious on VOD and in theaters this summer.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3659939/panic-fest-review-paranoid-thriller-blood-conscious-keeps-guessing/

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