Writer/director Daniel Tucker’s Nothing But the Blood is a microbudget drama with horror elements that makes no bones about its being against organized Old Testament Christian religion, from the hypocrisy of following or interpreting some things mentioned in that text while conveniently ignoring others to the sometimes cult-like devotion of indoctrinated followers. Although the film focuses on family drama for the most part, it does deliver some fright-fare material with well-crafted practical effects, mostly in the third act.
Jessica (Rachel Hudson) is a small-town newspaper reporter who requests handling the story of the controversial, cult-like Emeth church setting up locally. She interviews Pastor Michael (Nick Triola), whose mild-mannered demeanor quickly turns when she confronts him about physical abuse within the church. Jessica then meets Thomas (Jordan O’Neal) and invites him into her home, which he politely declines. She then discovers that he is a member of Emeth on one of her follow-up visits for her research. After a violent brush with Jessica’s abusive ex-boyfriend, Thomas announces that he is leaving the church to be with Jessica, something that doesn’t sit well with the church’s Father (Les Best). Jessica and Thomas, for some reason, hang around the town for another six years rather than distancing themselves from Emeth and its followers, raising a daughter in the meantime. When the couple finally allows Emeth members to see their daughter on her birthday, tragedy strikes — a security camera shot that leads up to that moment is truly chilling and effective — and the film shifts from drama to revenge horror.
My main issue with Nothing But the Blood is that I feel there are no likeable characters to root for. At the beginning of the film, Jessica and Thomas don’t do much to gain favor — and I was particularly surprised that she would give him the time of day after catching him in a certain act, yet they become a loving couple after that. Yes, something tragic happens that should make them sympathetic characters, but by the time that happens, I felt it was too little, too late. That continues to hold true as they make their choices about how to — in their way — right the wrong that happened. The antagonists are rather one-dimensional, from Jessica’s abusive ex-boyfriend who won’t let go, to the members of the church who venomously spit fire and brimstone.
Nothing But the Blood has its share of strong points. For example, although the characters may have the faults I have mentioned, the interaction between them is often quite good. The cast is quite good, with the leads investing in their characters nicely and several supporting players also giving commendable turns. The special effects makeup department of Maya Gandhi, Jenna Green, and Jessica Hernandez Wynn deserve mention for the trio’s impressive, gruesome gore work.
Tucker’s passion for the film’s subject is obvious throughout, and he shows that he has a flair for helming both drama and horror material. With Nothing But the Blood, he and his cast and crew have crafted a feature that sometimes belies its budget in delivering a tension-driven slice of independent cinema.
Nothing But the Blood, from Gravitas Ventures, is available on VOD, Blu-ray, and DVD from Tuesday, August 4.