New Horror Releases: Bloody Good Eye Candy: Bloody Ballet (2018) Reviewed

Let’s discuss that stylish, neo-Giallo film about murdered dancers that’s out now, shall we?  Oh, I meant the one that isn’t the new Suspiria remake.  Sorry.  Brett Mullen’s Bloody Ballet (a.k.a. Fantasma) might not be the most well-known film with blood-splattered ballerinas, but it surprisingly holds its own.

When Adriana (Kendra Carelli) is cast as the lead role in a production of The Nutcracker, her inner darkness is awakened by the stress and jealousy she experiences.  Haunted by childhood trauma, she begins to hallucinate and have increasingly troubling dreams.  All the while, a mysterious masked murderer with a penchant for music boxes begins to kill off her cast members one by one in the most “Argento” of fashions.

From the very first shots of the film--a flashback to the night of Adriana’s parents’ murder, followed by her dance troupe performing on stage--the tone is immediately set:  an 80’s retro, synth-heavy soundtrack complements an ultra-saturated color scheme that will satiate “style over substance” horror devotees.  Its music and cinematography are undoubtedly the film’s strongest assets, balanced by a solid enough, well-paced plot to not seem completely void of substance.

Nevertheless, the film still lacks the polish of a commercial film.  While Kendra Carelli’s performance is acceptable, her supporting actors vary in competence, made worse by the script’s sometimes clunky exposition.  The sound design is practically non-existent in the sense that (along with a noticeable lack of foley) the audio sounds like it was recorded in a vacuum with zero sense of space, which is in stark contrast to the atmosphere they set visually.  While these flaws aren’t deal-breakers, they suggest a level of amateurism, which is unfortunate.

Bloody Ballet’s greatest flaw, however, lies within a subplot that did not enhance the film aesthetically nor narratively.  We are introduced to a journalist that explores an abandoned asylum to investigate the ghosts that roam its halls.  While his story ultimately ties into the somewhat sloppy climax of the film, his scenes abruptly pull the audience out of the main action, often look drab in comparison to the otherwise lush imagery, and could have been presented in a more engaging manner--or even eliminated completely.

The film is rich in dark ambiance and gore, but if you’re looking for jump scares or nail-biting suspense, look elsewhere.  The killer certainly has some fun murders and a great getup, but the carnage is mostly predictable and nothing new for any slasher film aficionado.  More unsettling are the otherworldly visions our protagonist has throughout the film, which were consistently interesting and creatively unveiled.

Bloody Ballet is a good time for any forgiving horror fan that isn’t expecting a masterpiece.  As blasphemous as this sounds, I’ve seen some Giallo films done by the masters of that genre that weren’t as tight or visually appealing as this one.  Brett Mullen is no Mario Bava, but he knows how to make a decent-looking horror film.

-Andrea Riley