There is certainly something to be said about The Blessed Ones - it’s damn ambitious. And we say ambitious not in the condescending way some vacuous TV host utters ‘Didn’t he do well?’ and gurns at the audience like a well-chinned automaton. No, ambitious in that it sets its stall out and flaunts its wares, shouting about its visuals like a proverbial market stall holder bellowing something about a punnet of strawberries. It is just a shame the filmmaker had to do some A-grade haggling to get the goods.
For a kickoff, it looks great. So good in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking it had a small chunk of cash behind it. If true, they spent in all the right places. If untrue, then the look of the film is a testament to what can be achieved these days without a studio, nay, without even a loan on your grandpappy’s watch. The only place the visuals are let down slightly is in the grading between different shooting locations that are meant to be the same place- but that’s small fry really. Where the cinematography really shines is in amongst the dirt. Every piece of the dusty, endless desert is here to see. Every glistening bead of sweat on our actors’ brows looks as though it is sliding down the screen.
Polymath Patrick O’Bell takes all the tough jobs in terms of filmmaking and does them with aplomb (his accountancy skills must be to die for- not a phrase you hear every day). The Blessed Ones is a pre-apocalyptic (Again, not a phrase you hear much these days) tale of two escapees of a cult making their way across the desert whilst said cult embarks on a good old suicide pact. To say more would spoil proceedings. The story is an interesting one, although the films biggest failing is in the dialogue. It’s not bad and it’s not so-bad-it’s-good either, it’s just a little off. Given all too often to rely on genre clichés, it’s nothing another pass on the script wouldn’t fix.
The film’s influences are clear to see. There is a smattering of The Hills Have Eyes, a soupcon of Twin Peaks and a good dash of American Horror Story. But while these influences are clear to see they are borrowed with reverence to the source materials rather than poor facsimiles. Dave Vescio as the cult leader is pure Lynch, with the perfect look of a charismatic cult leader and well, cult leader. We all know how they turn out, don’t we?
With a script polish and a bit more cash, this could have been outstanding, but isn’t that often the way? The Blessed Ones is certainly worth your time - just don’t sear your eyeballs in that desert sun.
THE BLESSED ONES / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PATRICK O’BELL / STARRING: DAVE VESCIO, ANDY GATES, TAMZIN BROWN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US)