Vincent (Xavier Samuel) is a respected author with a tortured past. As he begins the follow-up to his successful novel, and embarks on a whirlwind romance with fiancée Carrie (Morgan Griffin), he is approached by a private detective (Rob Macpherson) intent on proving that Vincent was responsible for the murder of his first wife. Needing to get his thoughts together for the book, and keep away from the attentions of the investigator, Vincent suggests to Carrie that they take a short break in the country. After arriving at the house where they are staying, Vincent’s mood changes and Carrie begins to suspect that he is not quite all that he seems. Events begin to take a more homicidal direction.
Bad Blood, the second movie from Australian director David Pulbrook (Last Dance), is a psychological thriller in the classic girl-loves-boy/boy-harbours-dark-secret vein. With its author in peril concept, Bad Blood is elementally reminiscent of giallo classic Tenebre or Paul Verhoeven’s tacky Hollywood thrillers, except it lacks the salacious content to compensate for its plot deficiency. It does not have Argento’s panache or the excessive sex and violence inherent to Verhoeven’s output. As such, we don’t have too much trouble seeing where Bad Blood is headed once the main components are established.
And that really is the crux of the problem. The element of unpredictability necessary for a successful thriller is largely absent, as Bad Blood’s ‘twist’ is established fairly early on in the proceedings. At that point, Bad Blood should probably have another switcheroo up its sleeve, or fully embrace the darker elements of the story. Instead, it travels a fairly conventional thriller route.
It feels bad to knock a home-grown thriller at a time when Australian movies need our support in the cinema, particularly those that don’t have lofty ideals, and just want to tell a trashy story. But no matter how much we’d like it to be another Babadook or Wyrmwood, Bad Blood just doesn’t have the chops for it.
Performance wise, Xavier Samuel approaches Vincent with wise restraint, resisting the temptation to turn him into an OTT movie psycho. Morgan Griffin also does well to wrest as much sympathy for Carrie as possible. Unfortunately, they can’t do much more with their undeveloped characters. There is a disconnect somewhere, so we never really get much sense of either person beyond Vincent’s moping and Carrie’s general vacancy.
By the end, we are left with too many questions. Some quick answers as to why private detective Mitchell (Rob MacPherson) is so tight with the police and dogged in his pursuit of Vincent would have gone a long way in elevating him above a stock-standard investigator. Then there are the frustratingly vague motivations and implausible foresight handed to other characters, which leaves the final third feeling more reliant on Deus Ex Machina than organically driven results.
On the plus side, there is a watchability to Bad Blood. Although the premise stretches credibility, it’s a good fit for this type of thriller. It also has a weird feeling of unreality seeping through it which makes it intriguing at times, and the low budget origins give it an appealing, but hard to define strangeness.
By the end credits you’re left wishing they had pulled out more of the stops. By layering on some craziness, attending to the logistics a bit more, or even saving the reveal for later in the story, we might have cause to look at Bad Blood in a better light, but ultimately there’s not quite enough originality to really satisfy.
THE REEL SCORE: 5/10