Directed and written by Henry Jacobson with Avra Fox-Lerner and Will Honley
Starring Seann William Scott, Mariela Garriga and Dale Dickey(!!!)
MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence and disturbing images, graphic nudity, and language
Running time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
by Zoe Crombie
A dark hospital bathroom. A spotlight on a lone woman showering off the sweat from a long day. A figure appears; her throat is suddenly a leaking gash. These are the opening moments of Henry Jacobson’s directorial debut Bloodline, and the film doesn’t get much less shocking from there.
I won’t reveal too many of the grisly details, but Bloodline is essentially a film about a family man (Seann William Scott as Evan Cole) who’ll stop at nothing in removing anyone who harms the safety of children, whether they’re a threat to his child or another’s. As a high school social worker, he is exposed to these types of people more than the average man; deadbeat fathers and abusive uncles aren’t unpleasant outliers, but rather an entire breed of people that needs to be eradicated. This is all unbeknownst to his wife Lauren, a new mother and the apple of Evan’s eye.
Evoking the cold, crisp style of movies like Drive and Mandy, Bloodline relishes in neon tinted, methodically delivered brutality. The sets are minimalist and claustrophobic, leaving you feeling like you’re trapped in a room with a man who may or may not slaughter you at any given moment. Director Henry Jacobson manages to suck the warmth and joy out of every frame in the best way possible, leaving only an uncanny sense that nothing is quite as it should be. We’re watching a nuclear family go about their daily routine, but the way that a situation as innocent as a baby breastfeeding is framed as an act of violence makes proceedings seem far more sinister – not to mention the ruthless birth scene.
This strange lifelessness is, arguably, at its most obvious in the murder sequences, all shot and edited in exactly the same way with an eerie inevitability. Evan’s weapon of choice is a small, sharp dagger, a straightforward choice for an unassuming man – this lack of creative passion in his killing (a la Freddy or Jason in other slashers) adds wonderfully to his creepy, almost robotic obsession with his twisted interpretation of justice.
None of this would work without Seann William Scott’s career best performance. As Evan, even with the gut punch that begins the film, he gives off a darkly comic likability despite being a black hole of emotion or charisma. He goes about life as the ideal portrait of a ‘good’ man, and although his motives may be clear enough, he rarely gives a sense of any true interiority. He exists only to see wrongs and right them how he sees fit, making him both the perfect father, and the perfect serial killer.
Surrounding this centrepiece performance are the powerhouse supporting cast, namely Mariela Garriga as Evan’s emotionally exhausted wife Lauren, and the legendary Dale Dickey as Evan’s similarly overprotective mother Marie. Where the former is a woman in crisis, constantly on the brink of panic and yet somehow soldiering through, the latter is spookily calm, with a mother-son closeness in her chemistry with Scott as unsettling and intense as Norma and Norman 50 years ago in Psycho.
Through Bloodline, despite relying on the troublesome cliché of murdering a nude woman at the start, Blumhouse have once again proven themselves to be 21st century masters of horror, and Seann William Scott has proven he has the chops to reignite his career as a powerful dramatic actor.