31 Days of Hell: Blood Paradise (2018) - Reviewed

Newcomer writer/producer/director/actor Patrick Von Barkenberg’s feature film debut Blood Paradise is another one of those horror movies involving a celebrity kidnapping ala Calvaire or the more well known Misery where an author finds herself in the clutches of a psychotic and murderous farmer.  The difference here is that Barkenberg and his co-writer and producer Andréa Winter cast themselves in the leading roles of their horror picture with Winter as the protagonist and Barkenberg as her boyfriend.  The resulting film treads familiar ground we’ve seen many times over before with creepy superfans, weird locals and a buildup to bloodshed.  But there’s some inspired fun to be had along the way.  Check out our earlier review published by our editor-in-chief here also!

Best-selling crime novelist Robin Richards (Winter) has hit a creative rut when her latest novel flops critically and commercially.  Looking for a place to retreat and break free of her writer’s block when she isn’t playing sadomasochistic sex games with her long-haired muscle-head boyfriend (Barkenberg), her publisher suggests a secluded farm within the Swedish countryside.  Part of the film’s charm is, not unlike John Lurie’s sardonic television show Fishing with John, is seeing a well-to-do celebrity as a fish out of water, unleashed in uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory with the local denizens there to fawn over her when they aren’t creepily ogling.  Needless to say, it’s all downhill from here.

For a first-time director, the independent filmmaking venture/family affair is by and large an enjoyable one once your impatience with the tried and true clichés wears off.  Shot in panoramic widescreen, it makes excellent use of the countryside and gives the impression of being completely away from civilization with no one within an earshot to hear the unlucky author’s cries for help. 

Granted, it draws heavily from the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Misery and especially the aforementioned Calvaire with respect to the split personalities of the antagonistic farmer and the terror of a person of privilege suddenly losing all access to the luxuries and safeties they’re accustomed to.  A scene where Robin goes swimming naked only to return to find her clothes stolen will invariably remind some of the rape-revenge shocker I Spit on Your Grave

The film’s best moments, incidentally, aren’t the scares which are predictable at best for veteran horror fans, but the comic asides involving her creepy chauffeur/superfan and his increasingly jealous agriculturalist wife who at one point even shows up at the farm to confront Robin.  One of the funniest moments involves the man’s wife walking in on Robin and the chauffeur, assuming an adultery is taking place, and she remarks she regularly uses Robin’s books as toilet paper.

Barkenberg and Winter’s collaborative debut won’t really do anything you haven’t seen already, but for a first-timer it’s a relatively impressive debut that’s never boring and delivers the goods gore hounds crave.  For the filmmakers to put themselves out there in the lead roles shows a certain amount of bravery, given they’re basically creating the whole thing from the ground up.  Is this indie horror debut a by-the-numbers byproduct of familiar horror classics?  Yes.  Is it an otherwise fun distraction for two hours and promising start for first-time feature filmmakers?  Also yes!

--Andrew Kotwicki