Dry Blood tells the tale of a man who retreats to a cabin in the woods to quit drugs cold turkey. He calls a friend to meet him there and help him on his journey to sobriety. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, as simple as a junkie heading to the woods to sweat out years of bad decisions and personal demons can be. Of course, since this is a horror film(psychological and otherwise) things don’t go as planned. There’s a local sheriff that won’t leave our protagonist be, following him around and seemingly stalking him throughout the film. There’s the friend that meets him out in the middle of nowhere that acts as if she’s been through all of this before. There’s also the fact that our protagonist is a junkie, and as such is not a very reliable narrator. We don’t know if what we’re seeing is real or if it’s hallucinations. And then there’s the matter of all the insane things we’re seeing are in fact real or just withdrawal symptoms.
And so is the story behind Kelton Jones’ Dry Blood.
The movie stars Clint Carney as Brian Barnes, our junkie looking to kick drugs cold turkey. Carney also wrote the film as well as scoring it. Jaymie Valentine is Brian’s beautiful friend Anna who comes out into the wilderness to help him through the toughest part of drying out. Director Kelton Jones plays the local sheriff who suspects Barnes is dangerous and begins stalking him throughout the film. The majority of the film takes place at the cabin that Barnes shares with his ex-wife, and the cabin itself plays a pivotal role in the film.
Dry Blood starts out a bit slow. Carney does a good job of playing a manic junkie trying to get clean. His Brian Barnes is a like a cross between Bruce Campbell’s Ash from The Evil Dead and Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance from The Shining. You go from one second feeling for his character, and the next thinking there’s something far darker going on besides withdrawal. Unfortunately there’s some odd moments in the first hour between Carney’s Brian and Valentine’s Anna. Some conversations feel off, and I suppose once you get to the end of the film it may make more sense. But until then, you kind of have to muddle through it. Kelton Jones does a great job as the slightly annoying and slightly menacing sheriff. Imagine Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson, but in Super Troopers instead of Parks and Recreations, and playing the creepy factor up significantly.
Though the first hour may take awhile to get rolling, and some of the acting is a bit stiff, I implore you to stick it out for the last 25 minutes of Dry Blood. I will not say anything else, other than you will not be disappointed. It’s shocking and disturbing, and the end leaves you feeling hollowed out.
Another aspect of the film that works incredibly well is the score by System Syn, which is Clint Carney(Jaymie Valentine was also a member at one time.) At times dark and melancholy, while other times tapping into the electro/industrial vibes of System Syn’s albums, Carney’s darkly sonic world is a perfect fit for this haunted tale of cabin fever amped up to 10. Opening theme “Dry Blood” is reminiscent of classic scores like Phantasm and The Exorcist, while also evoking more modern pieces like Jeff Grace’s House of the Devil. It all carries with it a very Gothic feel. There’s more dissonant pieces like “Running Water” that evoke the insanity building in Brian’s head, while the industrial-tinged “They’ll Sew You Up and You’ll Be Pretty” works in some more of the mechanical menace of System Syn’s sound. There’s some John Carpenter love in “Shotgun” as well.
Dry Blood is a low budget horror film with big budget aspirations. What it lacks in acting chops, it more than makes up for it in a well written story with genuinely shocking twists, excellent effects, high creepy factor, and an excellent and riveting score by System Syn.
Dry Blood, the film : 7.2 out of 10
Dry Blood S/T : 7.9 out of 10
System Syn’s Dry Blood S/T is available now via Burning Witches Records. Buy it here.