Although the chandelier was unlit, light from the brightly burning logs in the large fireplace shimmered through its crystals, sending beams of white into the high, dark corners of the ceiling, across the walls, and across the richly carpeted floor. Facing the fireplace stood a high-backed Chippendale wing chair with exquisite cabriole legs. The chair was upholstered in the same deep color as the carpet. A short man briskly entered the room and walked toward the chair.
"Ah, Mr. Bolton, you are early." A small, stark white hand briefly appeared on the right side of the chair, flicked the ashes off a long cigar, then disappeared. "It must be a serious matter then?"
Bolton looked down at the ashes piled in the bronze ashtray resting on the oval-topped trestle table beside the chair. He pulled a DVD case from his worn messenger's pouch. He addressed the back of the wing chair.
"Yes, it's a serious matter. Seventy-three minutes of bloody hillbilly debauchery that defies sanity, convention, and good people's decency. Bluntly put, it's schlock with a capital S."
"Excellent, I love a challenge!" said the voice, accompanied by a single clap of hands.
From the left side of the wing chair a stark white hand reached out expectantly. Bolton was relieved to hand over the DVD.
"You will find sherry and a polished Stiegel glass by the couch. We will be a short time, I'm sure."
Bolton removed his overcoat and retreated to the couch in the other room. He sat down, poured the sherry, and waited, as he normally did, for the review that no one else would do; no one, that is, except for the League of Reluctant Reviewers.
What are we to do with Alan Rowe Kelly, then? The man is incorrigible. What infantilistic need drives him to dress like an aging, demonic Little Lulu, carry wicked-sharp garden shears, and wreak gory havoc worse than the dogs of war? Why does he find subject matter like inbred New Jersey hillbillies with a penchant for cannibalism and sadistic nut-cracking with pliers—not Walnuts, mind you—gleefully choreographed to the tune of the innocent Little Lulu song (and my sincere apologies to Marjorie Henderson Buell), fit for decent horror fans?
As the grotesque Beefteena Bullion, who dreams of becoming America's Next Top Model, he charges ahead with a nightmarish blend of over the top gore, grievous over-acting, and unsavory, outlandish scenes that play parody with too much off-the-wall seriousness. From the shallow end of the genre pool he drags it up with elephant stomps, falling short of delivering unnerving terror or witty black humor.
Yet his compositions are executed with a keen eye for ominous camera angles, foreboding, lingering shots of dread, and the conventions of glistening viscera, sadism with a laugh, and uncouth characters overstuffing this independent horror.
In sum, The Blood Shed is art-house schlock that will appeal to some, be avoided by most, and provide ample forums for discussion by both. Given a healthy budget and a mainstream script, no doubt Kelly would be a force to reckon with. But until that time comes, if ever, we must, reluctantly, direct our critical attention to The Blood Shed.
On the plus side, Sno Cakes (Susan Adriensen) is fun to watch as she and Beefteena chit-chat, sell sour Lemonade, and join in the murder spree with reckless abandon. With her corny drawl, over-done makeup, trashy clothes, and silly hairdo, she's repulsive yet oddly sexy and funny; a bright spot in this drive-in disappointment.
And it's not that the acting is bad, it's more a case of story-telling for the sake of being as outrageous and naughty as possible. Rhyme and reason do not put in an appearance here; not when Beefteena playfully pulls her little stuffed rodent Flapjack on a string as she skips through the woods; or when a local brat is "accidentally" pulled apart in a tug of war; or when dad pulls the shotgun trigger to shoot down airborne squirrels, with comic close-ups of the rigor-mortised rodents lying on the ground, while he and the boys whoop it up.
When the local sheriff's most important asset is attacked with a pair of pliers, the absurdity becomes more disgusting than put-on-funny. Kelly works this gory theater of blood angle with heaviness throughout, putting The Blood Shed out of the range of parody, satire, comedy, or even serious horror because he doesn’t stick enough with any one of them to make a difference.
Beefteena' climactic birthday party scene—why is there always a deviant party or wacko dinner scene in these inbred, cannibalistic, hillbilly movies?—with decaying bodies of past victims wearing party hats seated around a festive table, and terrified future victims waking up to the festivity. It’s a mélange of grossness, bright colors, Little Lulu song playing, and humorless torture. The buzz of the electric carving knife while it’s used on the long-suffering sheriff, and Beefteena's ire at the modeling agency personnel who laughed at her photo session induce nausea throughout this ham-fisted spectacle of tasteless scripting.
Yet throughout this repugnant romp you will find quietly competent cinematography by Bart Mastronardi, who frames each scene with loving precision, making colorful use of inexpensive string lights in unusual settings to cast a deceptively warming palette across scenes of depravity. The resulting dissonance creates a disorienting atmosphere that invites you in, but subtly warns you to stay away.
I heartily recommend you stay away unless you just want to enjoy the scenery. Watching paint dry would be a more productive expenditure of your seventy-three minutes; possibly not as much fun for some of you, but definitely more productive.
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