Arrow Video: The Bloodhound (2020) - Reviewed

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher lives within the chilly Cronenbergian cool of writer-director Patrick Picard’s sterile and surreal horror debut film The Bloodhound, the new film released by Arrow Video which won’t be to all tastes with a deliberate snail’s pace that will rival most A24 films but as such represents a unique new directorial talent.  Akin to Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, this slow glacial burn is at once ornate and occasionally messy with unexpected outbursts to spruce up the otherwise robotic performances. 

Beginning innocently enough, young man Francis (Liam Aiken) is invited to well to do childhood pal JP’s (Joe Adler) home.  With JP and his mysterious sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) dwelling within the sleek confines of their home, Francis grows increasingly suspect of JP’s intentions and role in the family tree, drawn increasingly into a bloodless underworld of madness.  Largely dominated by steely monologues by JP ruminating on his wealth, strange childlike gameplaying and never leaving the house, The Bloodhound seems to be developing into a thriller of sorts but as it reached something resembling a conclusion, one gets the sense their hands are closing on hot air.
Imagine Poe by way of Jonathan Glazer and you have a mild idea of what’s in store here.  Though running at a brisk seventy-two minutes, the film crawls creepily on its hands and knees while remaining steeped in intrigue and malaise.  Never fully announcing itself as horror or even psychological thriller, The Bloodhound instead tiptoes slowly around this eerie household as the enigmatic JP’s behavior grows steadily more erratic and combative.  Much of the film rests on Joe Adler’s eerie performance as his carefully composed demeanor and precise robotic delivery suggests burgeoning sociopathy.  Liam Aiken is mostly good as the film’s confused hero who seems more and more desperate to leave the empty domain he’s ensnared in.
Though a near silent spooky venture with a number of moments generating undisclosed unease, the film’s vagueness will wear thin on some viewers at the halfway mark and the slow pace against the brief running time will inspire restlessness within some viewers.  Visually the film’s production design of the home by Arielle Ness-Cohn will remind some of the ornate interior decorum of the rich family in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and the slick cinematography by Jake Magee only cements the overall sterility of the film. 

If there’s a grievance to make with this deliberately opaque and mercurial chiller, it is that it never quite finds its legs to stand on and declare itself.  Rather than show its face, The Bloodhound prefers to wallow in an eerie fog which is at once an absorbing and distancing technique.  Somewhere in The Bloodhound is an intriguing horror movie about that one friend who won’t let you leave if only it could find the courage to really show its face.  An interesting technical exercise and well-acted piece which could have evolved into a modern masterpiece but instead only comes across as undercooked.

--Andrew Kotwicki