New Horror Releases: Blood Bound (2019) - Reviewed

The demonic subgenre of horror films is rife with reimaginings of The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, and The Omen. The bulk of these offerings often imitate the foundations by repackaging familiar elements with socially relevant commentary and ever evolving special effects.  A precious few of these films find success with both critics and audiences, such as Ari Aster's 2018 masterwork, Hereditary.  Horror auteur Richard LeMay's Blood Bound is a welcomed member  of the latter.  Fusing expected tropes of demons, witches, and prophecy into a bifurcated story of love, betrayal, and destiny, this is one of the best horror films of the year thus far.  

In a backwoods American town, three teenage criminals are beset upon by a coven of witches, the result of which leaves one of their members pregnant with a child whose birth will fulfill a demonic pact made centuries ago.  Matters become complicated when the youngest member of the witches falls for the lamb before the slaughter.  LeMay's script swirls multiple plates simultaneously in an attempt to garner sympathy for all of the characters, not just the "good guys".  This is one of the most striking aspects as there are virtually no true heroes within LeMay's rural tempest.  Eden Brolin's Kerry is the most intriguing, leading double lives of civil service and dangerous tomfoolery.  Her evolution, particularly during the final act is extraordinary.  One of Bound's greatest achievements is its ability to make you care for atypically cold characters.  As Kerry and her friends descend into darkness and death, there are several kill scenes that linger in the mind's eye, desperately grasping at "what if" straws, as the viewer is forced to confront multiple instances of life ended far too soon.  

Vitaly Bokser's crisp cinematography captures the natural surroundings of the town in various wide shots bathed in different gradients of light, simulating Kerry's journey from elegiac innocence to a tortured and soiled existence.  The beauty, and dangerous wonder of the New York countryside is injected into the middle of a supernatural crucible, blending reality with the paranormal to create and aura of disbelief that descends upon Kerry.  While there are monsters and brutal killings dappled throughout, it is Brolin's devastating arc that is perhaps the most terrifying because it reveals a truth: Every child eventually loses innocence and perhaps even hope in their fellow man.

Now available for digital streaming, Blood Bound is a compact horror story enshrouded in an almost synthetic package that irrevocably distances itself from the warmth of humanity.  This in turn creates an deliciously oppressive atmosphere that never relents for the duration of the film.  While its budget may show at times, LeMay's outstanding direction, coupled with Brolin's exceptional performance elevates Blood Bound above the mediocrity that has taken over horror films for the last 30 years.  

--Kyle Jonathan