Directed by: #JoeLeone
Written by: Joe Leone
With its premise and production value, Blood Falls would have been better served leaning towards more self-referential schlock as the hallucinatory witchcraft which plagues the main characters leaves audiences disengaged and confused by the repetitive imagery. Writer-director Joe Leone initially plays into horror tropes with beginning with a group of friends spending a weekend out of town in an estranged family home. Ren, who is housesitting for her aunt for the weekend makes discoveries of her relative's interest of witchcraft which begins a descent into disturbing layered dreams and delusions. Although Ren is presented as a young woman struggling to make sense of her place in the world, Blood Falls has no escalation or sensical story, Leone relies on the same repetitive question of “what is real?”, over and over again.
The questions of Blood Falls are never answered and the feature-length runtime makes viewing it a laborious headache as its clear that Leone is hoping the smoke and mirrors of witchcraft imagery and continuing narrative reshuffles will distract from the shortcomings. It’s never made clear why Ren is being targeted and the resolutions the third act bring forward are predictable, uninspired and offers no exciting payoff. With character motivations undeveloped and confusing, Leone’s script is just circling the drain for the whole runtime, Ren is continually questioning what is happening to her but there is no sense of urgency or panic, just the same three-story beats repeated. Blood Falls lacks atmosphere at every turn as the witchcraft, paranoia and hallucinations remain completely lifeless with every reveal.
While low budget filmmaking is never something to look down upon, the lack of care to the filmmaking in Blood Falls is extremely frustrating as the camera work especially breaks immersion. The film is clearly shot with digital camcorders and during the scenes set during the night or in dark rooms (of which there are many) the autofocus begins adjusting frequently. Many scenes which should be inspiring dread and trepidation in the audience are blurry and hard to see because of extreme pixelation due to poor lighting. At times it would seem that different cameras are being used, with colour temperatures not matching up or video quality shifting between editing cuts. There are some scenes where Leone works this into Ren’s hallucinations but it feels like trying to jimmy rig the faults in his filmmaking to make sense. Blood Falls is riddled with confusing non-sensical mistakes and it would seem that Leone tries to sweep it all under the rug by constantly having Ren’s reality shift to absolve any responsibility for shoddy execution. It doesn’t work and the low production value really makes it hard to buy into anything about this story or its themes.
Blood Falls also stumbles in its editing as Leone relies on quick cuts and flashes to create tension, an attempt of subliminal imagery but instead comes across as distracting and sometimes feeling like clips are missing from the edit. Relative to the curve however the acting isn’t outright terrible, Alexis Abrams who leads the film as Ren can sell her character’s frustration and relationships its just Leone’s script and direction doesn’t allow anyone to really explore anything. It’s predictable and confusing tropes all blended and the repetitive nature of the structure leaves Abrams and her co-stars floundering. Blood Falls could have possible been entertaining if it leaned into more absurd ideas and execution but Leone’s direction to play it straight just leaves it firmly in a disappointing territory with nothing on offer.