When it comes to horror films, a lot of the criticism has been centered around the “unoriginality” of modern horror and how few have successfully reinvented the wheel. While we’ve definitely had a positive outbreak of undeniably original and bound to be classics from a ton of new promising genre directors, it’s safe to stay there’s also been countless amount of flops. As for the werewolf subgenre, I’d say this has been one of the few areas in horror that has proven to be successful with its reinvention and new additions. With classics like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London to borrow from, over the years we’ve had solid tales of the beast with Ginger Snaps, Wer, and dare I say Wes Craven’s severely underrated 2005 film Cursed? There’s just so much room for creativity, imagination and interpretation with werewolves which has helped films tackle the creature in many different ways which brings us to this year’s newest addition to the genre, Bloodthirsty.
In director Amelia Moses’ (Bleed With Me) second feature we follow Grey (Lauren Beatty), an up and coming indie singer with a successful debut who’s currently struggling on her follow up album. Not only is she suffering from a heavy case of writer’s block, she’s also having visions and dreams that she’s a wolf. After an invitation to a house isolated in the forest from a producer with a tricky history, she accepts it and heads out to the man’s homestead with her girlfriend by her side to not only beat her writer’s block, but also discover more about herself and who she really is.
The thing is, anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am very vocal about my frustration on the lack of queer representation in horror so whenever a queer character is leading a horror film, my excitement is shot through the roof. With this story, Grey’s queerness was never a major plot point or discussion within the film which I enjoyed; it was all very matter of fact. To be honest, I actually enjoyed her girlfriend’s character, Charlie (Katherine King So), a lot more than Grey herself but that’s also sort of a fault with this film. I didn’t exactly care much for the characters which is actually a huge issue because this film presents itself as a character study. When the couple are together on screen they thrive but apart, there’s just not much there.
When it comes to the overall story and script, I really enjoyed the themes that were present. For example with Grey and the producer, you could tell that he was trying to groom her into what he wanted. Grey presents herself as a vegetarian and he slowly eases her into meat, making her think that this is really what she wants and who she is. The way the grooming is examined throughout is actually pretty subtle and extremely well done; it’s also a timely topic due to how many young artists have been and continue to be groomed during the beginning of their careers within the music and film industry.
As for the story itself, I loved the setup with Grey being isolated with the producer and exploring her inner self (beast) but the execution leaves you wanting more. With slow burn horror the most important part is its climax because that’s what we’re all waiting for. We’re all waiting to see if this build up is worth the wait and I sort of felt underwhelmed in the end even though the last few minutes were satisfying to say the least. With that being said, the third act still had its moments, the transformation being the main praise worthy part. This film for sure was a lot heavier on the body horror than anything else and with very minimal beast action already, Grey’ transformation scene needed to be good; and it was. I loved the effects, the design and the final product of it; this was that “worth the wait” moment that was needed.
Lauren Beatty’s (Bleed With Me) performance as Grey is another highlight I’d like to make note of. While the overall script was nothing fantastic to write home about, Beatty’s performance was great and she controlled the screen every moment she was present; I’d even go as far to say that she’s the main reason to enjoy the character of Grey. As for the supporting cast, Katherine King So (Jupiter’s Legacy) and Greg Byrk (Saw V) both turn in great and enjoyable performances and a fun dynamic as Grey’s girlfriend and Producer.
While Bloodthirsty may not be the next big innovative werewolf feature we’ve been waiting for, it’s a fun feminist spin on the legend and presents itself as a step in the right direction for director Amelia Moses. This film along with some exciting upcoming horror projects are just the beginning for queer horror and I am nothing short of ecstatic to say that. It’s films like this that are clearly showing how inclusive the genre is becoming and finally giving us hope that we can begin to raise the bar even higher. While not a perfect genre bending flick, there’s still a lot to enjoy here and probably even more so than I did so be sure to check this one out.