A woman is attacked in her home by a masked man who lasciviously gouges out her right eyeball with a fork, slashes both of her Achilles tendons, sews up her mouth and drains her blood. It’s the latest in a pattern of murders that slouchy detective Jack Chaplin (Robert Render) has a lot of theories about but no real answers. Sacked by his impatient boss Hatcher (Jean-Paul Van Der Velde), Chaplin goes rogue, convinced this is good-old vampires at work. As the sadistic killings continue, can Chaplin stop two crazed brothers in their bloody tracks?
The brainchild of writer/producer/director George Clarke, this micro-budget (£10,000 or thereabouts) feature plays like an Irish take on Wolf Creek by way of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and as such, it’s the proverbial mixed bag. Let’s talk positives: the countryside locations (including some memorably spooky old tunnels) are very effectively used; the photography is decent, despite an over-abundance of unnecessary close-ups on people’s faces, and while the budget doesn’t stretch to any Tom Savini-style gore effects, the blood make-up does the job required. The acting, while unavoidably patchy on this budget, serves the material well. Everyone chucks themselves into the bloody melange with the right level of gonzo energy, particularly when called upon to die in screaming agony.
However, the script doesn’t so much need polishing as a deep chemical peel, happy as it is to pile on over-familiar slasher tropes with little in the way of realistic character beats or development. The dialogue is incredibly clunky, torpedoing leading man Render’s efforts at naturalism (it doesn’t help that the location sound renders some lines - particularly those of Dutch actor Van Der Velde - almost inaudible). A rather half-hearted extra-terrestrial twist that pops up with a great deal of wordy exposition feels completely tacked-on and the film’s valedictory line, “suck on that, you alien vampire fuck”, is just groan-inducing.
But the biggest issue is pacing. The torture scenes are repetitious and go on uncomfortably long for a film that clearly isn’t too seriously meant (the end credits roll, Police Academy-style, over outtakes of the cast corpsing with laughter). They contribute to an extended running time that also relies on scenes of people walking about or cars coming and going rather too slowly to get to that magic ‘feature-length’. If you last the course, you’ll be left with the distinct impression you’ve seen a decent enough short film trapped in a flabby torso, in desperate need of some judicious editing.
The Blood Harvest looks like it was a lot of fun to make but is a chore to watch, lacking the spark to lift it above the pack in a crowded indie-horror marketplace.
THE BLOOD HARVEST / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GEORGE CLARKE / STARRING: ALAN CRAWFORD, RACHAEL GALLOWAY, GRIFFIN MADILL / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 21ST (US)