Nothing But the Blood
Review by Craig Draheim
Writer/Director: Daniel Tucker
Starring: Rachel Hudson, Jordan O’Neal, Nick Triola, Les Best
I have an ongoing conundrum as a reviewer, which is noticeably evident in horror and the other “genre” movies. At what point is the lack of budget no longer an excuse for issues within the movie? I used to think it was issue with the story, because obviously it does not cost anything to have a solid script. But then a great point was made that sometimes, the straightforward that can be told, would not hold up against a flick with a higher budget, so relying more on visual poetry elements provides an opportunity to stand out from the rest. I don’t buy it all the time, but I get the sentiment. This isn’t some opening that’s going to have me bashing the film, as I actually thought it was well executed for its “shoe-string” budget. But it did cross my mind and gives me reason to create a dialogue on the subject.
Nothing but the Blood tells the story of Jessica Cutler, a small-town reporter looking to make more of a name for herself by covering the opening of a controversial cult-like church. And as it usually happens with scenarios like this in these kinds of stories, while Jessica goes further down the rabbit hole and the church begins to put its stamp on the town, things get violent. While the story is told in linear fashion, there’s some quick flashes or recurring imagery that suggests a dream or something that will happen later (I won’t spoil it).
One thing that should always be evident is the passion behind making a project of any kind. While you might not be able to place a finger on it, you can feel what was made as a labor of love vs. for the paycheck or credits. This feels cathartic on its views of religion, specifically Christianity in small-town USA. A good chunk of the movie is built around these monologues designated to show us both sides of religion: the influence it can have on people and when someone twists the scripture to justify acts of hate; and the care in showing “good” people within the church. It is obvious which viewpoint Mr. Tucker aligns with. For the most part it is compelling, but ultimately is too “on the nose,” preachy (maybe a pun intended), and covers dialogue/thematic territory that we have seen/heard. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story like this, since every plot can be seen as similar to another, but you need to tell it in a way that is purely unique to you. In terms of this, I felt there was so much focus on the “message” and philosophical dialogue that it tends to bog down the movie. A prime example of this is being under 90 minutes, and perhaps the entire first half is built around what could be its own feature but ends up as exposition. The kind of build that is dedicated to the events prior to the film’s inciting incident (commonly referred to as the first 15minutes). Yes, there are many movies that accomplish a later shift (House of the Devil is consistently referenced) but without spoiling anything this just isn’t one of those movies where the extensive build or “slow burn” is a crucial component to the story that is being told.
However, as always, I am coming back to my opening discussion to say I found many instances where my criticism could be muted when recognizing what was accomplished for so little. There are many locations, a relatively large cast, and many plot devices that make the movie rather busy. For all of that I commend it. It is an incredibly well done (true) indie thriller. And yes, I know ultimately budgets should not affect whether a movie is good or not but as this is a collaborative medium it really plays a crucial part. For that reason, I will offer leeway to independent projects made from passion, the filmmakers’ own funds, and limited sources over some feature that has, what feels like, limitless possibilities.
In the end, Nothing but the Blood is enjoyable and shows a lot of promise for those involved if they were able to get more funds or time put into their work. But it makes the common mistake associated with first-time features where it bites off more than it can chew, when they should have condensed, making their dollars and time go a little farther.
2 out of 5