The atmospheric chiller is not something you hear much about these days. When it comes to mainstream horror anyway. Aside from the likes of 2015’s The Witch or 2017’s It Comes at Night which largely relied on atmosphere and quiet tension to create much of what you feel on screen. Similar could be said of 2018’s horror hit, Hereditary, which used its creepy score and sense of dread peppered with scary and disturbing moments to get by – and get by it did as it is now considered something of a modern horror classic by many.
So where does Patrick Picard’s 2020 film The Bloodhound stand in amongst the above examples? Despite not being quite as successful in creating that almost overbearing sense of dread, The Bloodhound does have its plus points and manages to create just enough slow burn fear and intrigue to keep the viewer watching until the end.
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This is thanks in large part to the mysterious figure we see climbing out of the waters at the film’s opening. Who or what is it? Why is it there and what does it want? These are questions that the viewer will have to listen to try and find the answers to and it’s this that is perhaps part of the problem that some might have with The Bloodhound: the reasons for its namesake aren’t always all that clear.
The film itself concerns two childhood friends Francis (Liam Aiken) and Jean Paul ‘JP’ Luret (Joe Adler). When JP invites Francis to stay with him at his mansion by the sea it could be seen as a great opportunity for the friends to reconnect, but as we soon find out, JP is quite the eccentric and aside from seeing his twin sister, Vivian (Annalise Basso) and presumably, the takeaway delivery man, we find out that JP hasn’t left the mansion in two years. As Francis talks to JP he finds out that Vivian is to be left alone and is even possibly sick and dangerous to be around and that JP also has a few ‘interesting’ hobbies. Other than that, JP is something of a loner and who you gather to be from a rich family, hence the mansion.
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It’s then that the mind games begin. Francis putting up with JP’s lifestyle despite being slightly shocked or confused by it at points. Scenes in which JP tries to convince Francis he must have been dreaming when Francis says he’s seen or heard certain things are interesting. Like JP is hiding a deadly secret. Eventually, it seems Francis is getting pulled into some kind of world of despair and will have to find a way out even if it means betraying an old friend.
The problem is that sometimes these scenes do drag on a bit and for the more modern viewer, if you like, The Bloodhound might get a bit boring or frustrating as we don’t see much of what we assume is the bloodhound of the title that we see at the beginning of the film and again around the middle. It becomes almost like a battle of wits between Francis and JP. A psychological thriller of sorts. The bloodhound itself possibly a dream or metaphor for something else, something deeper. A scene in which JP describes a dream he had to Francis offers an insight into this. Slow burn are definitely the key words here and if you are the type of viewer or horror fan that prefers gore and jump scares, needless to say, The Bloodhound definitely won’t be for you.
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Despite this, The Bloodhound does well to create quite an intense atmosphere at times as it is all set in one location, JP’S mansion, so good lighting and colour is needed and The Bloodhound succeeds at this, the colours often complementing the mood of the scene. The score is also worth a mention, also enhancing the mood of certain scenes and moments showing The Bloodhound to be the kind of film that depends on the viewer to recognise that building sense of fear and dread it is trying to create within its scenes. As with working out what is going on in JP’s head during his conversations with Francis; patience is a virtue that may well be rewarded for some viewers here.
Talking of Francis and JP, the performances of both Liam Aiken and Joe Adler are both very strong, in particular Adler as slightly eccentric, rich loner Jean Paul Luret. Adler plays the character with an air of superiority, always letting Francis realise whose home he is in and who has the higher status, but at the same time there is sometimes a vibe of almost childish vulnerability about JP that makes for an interesting and challenging character to play and for some odd but gripping chemistry between JP and the down-on-his-luck Francis.
Extras for this Arrow Video release of The Bloodhound include a brand new audio commentary by director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorca; four experimental short films by Patrick Picard, and ‘On the Trail of The Bloodhound: Behind the Scenes of a Modern Chiller’, which is a 45 minute making-of featurette. First pressings only include an illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel.
Overall, while clearly not for everybody, The Bloodhound stands out as an old school influenced chiller for modern times. Its sometimes meandering scenes made up for by atmosphere, the occasional real sense of fear and dread, and two solid performances.
The Bloodhound is out on Blu-ray on 22nd March from Arrow Video.