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31 Days of Halloween

[Fantastic Fest] ‘Bloodthirsty’ review: Singing to a different tune

Great soundtrack included.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly movies podcast, Adventures in Movies!

Slow burn horror has become increasingly popular in recent years. These have been met with polarizing results. Some people find the layered storytelling interesting while others think they are boring. The truth is somewhere in the middle. When done right, these movies offer a different type of experience in terror that can still be fun. When the writing is not up to par, things become tedious.

One subgenre that seemed like it would never be a viable entry for methodical storytelling are werewolf stories. These movies are a great source for character studies, but nature of the beast lends itself to a fast paced tale. Making its world premiere at Celebration of Fantastic Fest, Bloodthirsty is a slow burn werewolf movie. 

(To be fair, the word “werewolf” is never uttered in the movie. But the story hits all the werewolf tropes fans are familiar with.)

Bloodthirsty is about a singer named Grey (Lauren Beatty). Grey is struggling to complete her second album. When she gets a chance to work with reclusive producer Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk), she feels compelled to accept the offer. Before long, Grey learns that Daniels has a troubled past. She also begins to experience odd dreams.

[Fantastic Fest] 'Bloodthirsty' review: Singing to a different tune

Director Amelia Moses brings a lot of neat twists to her movie. For example, Grey is a vegan. It is not odd for a film to introduce a vegetarian werewolf or one that faints at the sight of blood. This is normally done for comedic purposes, however. In Bloodthirsty, it is not meant to be funny. It is a window into Grey’s life that highlights the change that may be occurring to her.

Bloodthirsty also has a different way of showing how Grey may be changing. There are the normal signs of possible lupine tendencies. She dreams of hunting and eating animals, wakes up covered in blood, and starts to crave meat. But those are surface level changes that are more about meeting audience expectations. The story also provides a much more individual look.

Instead, the film uses Grey’s music to show how she is changing. At first, all the songs sound similar. There is nothing wrong with them, but they are easily identifiable Top 40 fare with a catchy tune that listeners will quickly move on from. As Bloodthirsty progresses, the music becomes more heartfelt and primal. It is a creative way to showcase the change in character.

How well does a slow burn werewolf movie work? Character development is usually only so important in this type of film. All the audience needs to know is whether the person wants to change or not. At that point, it is a case of whether to pity them or despise them. Either way, people should fear them. The rest of the time is spent watching the gradual change.

[Fantastic Fest] 'Bloodthirsty' review: Singing to a different tune

Bloodthirsty does have some of those elements. There is also the question of whether Grey is truly transforming or if it is all in her head. Beatty has a great feel for Grey and gives a fantastic performance. Audiences can see the gradual change in her. Beatty does a great job of showing confusion and fear, but there is also a determination that sets her apart from other reluctant werewolves.

Bloodthirsty is an intimate film with a small cast. Everyone does an excellent job in adding to Grey’s story. The story is very strong up until the third act. There are some revelations towards the end that do not add much to the overall story. They do come out of nowhere, but that is partially because they are irrelevant. That being said, the final scene provides a satisfying sense of closure.

Werewolf movies have been a mainstay in horror for good reason. They tell stories of people trying to come to terms with a darker side of themselves. Any person can relate to that. Bloodthirsty is a personal tale of one person becoming a beast and how they are trying to deal with it. It’s unique take on the story makes for an engaging watch.

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