Demons Cause Mass Shootings in Taut Paranoia Slasher Blood Conscious (CFF)
Title: Blood Conscious
First Wide Release: August 20, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Timothy Covell
Writer: Timothy Covell
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Starring: Oghenero Gbaje, DeShawn White, Lenny Thomas
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here (TBD)
This film’s review was written after its screening in the Chattanooga Film Festival 2021.
Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje), his sister, Brittney (DeShawn White), and her fiancé Tony (Lenny Thomas) arrive at their parent’s lakeside vacation cabin to find it surprisingly abandoned. While investigating they discover a grim scene. Kevin and Brittney’s parents have been gunned down alongside every one of their neighbors. Before they have time to process what happened, the mass shooter who killed them all confronts them, explaining that he had to kill them because they became demons. The trio will have to decide if he is a sick man that gets off on hurting others or if his claims might be true.
Blood Conscious is a taut exercise in paranoia that takes advantage of social anxieties to ratchet up the intensity.
From the beginning Blood Conscious captivates its audience with its dark, brooding atmosphere and intense action. Picking up right where a slasher film might typically end, with bodies strewn about a lakeside cabin ready to be discovered by unsuspecting bystanders, it continues to show how that story might continue. The idea that the killer might have a good reason to dispatch dozens of people is a unique one, and not one that gets explored often. It’s an interesting internal battle that each of them must wage in their minds to survive the night, one way or the other.
Gritty and tense, Blood Conscious favors atmosphere above all else. The story never follows a completely expected pathway. Characters make choices and decisions that aren’t illogical yet never what would come to mind first. There’s also plenty of ambiguity on what exactly is going on without the details getting mushy. This sense of paranoia permeates the film and makes every character a suspect in some way.
It doesn’t sacrifice visceral feelings for plot or character development, achieving a lot in a limited amount of time. I appreciate that the characters develop so much in the short time they are in this situation. Kevin grows the most in his short time, which is most likely due to his youth, he is less stuck in his ways. His quick-thinking and open-mindedness saves himself and others at countless turns which allows him to grow more confident in taking control of his life, something he lacks at the beginning. In turn, Gbaje gives the best performance of the entire cast and makes Kevin a well-rounded and likable person to root for.
Blood Conscious weaves in timely social commentary subtlety without bogging down the taut action of the rapid-fire plot. There’s a clear and direct corollary to mass shootings in the U.S that makes it stand out from similar demonic slasher films. It also realistically and bluntly explores the realities Black characters face when reacting and responding to violence against them and others around them. By the end, the message gets a bit obscured, but the themes alone are interesting enough to explore for its quick eighty-minute runtime.
It does have its issues of course. The first ten minutes or so are rough when it comes to line delivery and acting in general. Once the action picks up the core cast recalibrates and delivers solid performances. Its budget does show at times. For example, sometimes the cinematography gets dark and murky during the night. Moments like this take away from the overall film. While indie efforts always inspire more grace due to the constrained nature of the production, it can still weigh down an otherwise promising premise.
A refreshing take on the horror of trusting others, Blood Conscious is both intellectually and viscerally engaging. Good characters, breathless action sequences, and indie grit make for a fantastic viewing experience. Choosing to lean into the discomfort of social unease and dynamics in a subtle but effective way, Blood Conscious achieves what many of the recent “social horrors” fail to do. Even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its premise, Blood Conscious delivers high stakes mystery and unflinching terror to a sleepy lakeside community. Don’t miss your shot in catching this flick; do it as soon as you can get your hands on it!
Overall Score? 7/10