Review: FAMILY BLOOD Pulls No Punches In Its Dark Look At Addiction
"That's my worst fear," my wife said to me as we sat down to eat dinner and watch Family Blood. "Getting addicted to drugs." It was this statement that added another, much darker, nuance to the film that I may have missed.
The film starts with a tense opening, it immediately ties a knot in your stomach with some genuinely fun and creepy moments. Then we hard shift into the life of Ellie, a recovering drug addict who has just regained custody of her children after battling an addiction to pills. She's managed to find a nice home in a neighborhood that's being gentrified and her children, Kyle and Amy, are doing their best to adjust. After attending a few N.A. meetings, Ellie meets Christopher, who reveals that he's a different kind of addict and sends Ellie's life into a blood chugging spiral.
Listen, this is vampire movie but it's definitely not The Lost Boys. More akin to films such as Habit or the more recent The Transfiguration, Family Blood is a bleak look at vampirism and instead of inferring the common metaphor of addiction, it faces it head on. This is a movie about an addict who kicks her addiction for another one. Ellie (played by Hocus Pocus's Vinessa Shaw) is on the brink of destruction and her children know it and she spends the entire film dancing on that edge. After she meets Christopher (Sinister's James Ransone), he turns her and what follows are the similar to the effects of going through withdrawals. Her children automatically assume that she's back on pills and this is where things get interesting: Christopher, playing the devil's advocate, pitches to her children that yes she is no longer human but she won't be craving pills anymore. She'll be able to kick the habit...but for a price.
It's this internal turmoil that Shaw is able to deftly portray that gives the film a unique edge over other films in the bloodsucker genre. It's begging a question of the lesser of two evils and is showcasing how addicts will bargain with themselves: I can do this because at least I'm not doing this drug anymore. We often see the vampire as a metaphor but with Family Blood, Mallhi forces us to face these fears head on. What would you do if you could abolish this life ruining disease? Would you take on something that's just as evil but allows you to live a somewhat more normal life? Are you doing this for your family or just forcing yourself to believe that?
Shaw gives a standout performance as the struggling mother and Ransone flips a 180 from his affable nice cop in the Sinister franchise to a brooding and sinister monster who sees himself as a gift giver, not a life taker. Colin Ford also does well as the son who is forced into protecting his family, pushed into growing up faster than he ever could have predicted.
Mallhi does a lot of interesting things with the film. It's a bit of a slow burn but then will do these crazy quick cuts where you're asking yourself if you missed a scene, and at first I thought it was sloppy editing but the second time around I realized that it's jarring on purpose, giving us a glimpse at the fragmented psyche of our lead. Mallhi and co-writer Nick Savvides play around with some vampire lore in a fun way as well, poking fun at established tropes. Not everything lands, some scenes are head scratchers with a "but why?" following them up and their is a love interest subplot with the son that seems unnecessary but does add another dark dig near the end of the film.
Family Blood brings a lot of really deep questions and ideas to the table. At first, I thought that they didn't quite hit like they're supposed to. It's a bit frenetic and hazy but watching it alongside my wife, quite possibly the strongest woman I have ever met who unfortunately also had to face such family issues head on, I saw the film in a different light. This isn't a vampire movie. It's an addiction movie. It doesn't sugarcoat things, it instead takes no prisoners and sends us reeling with the cold hard truth that addiction ruins lives and families. Mallhi needs to be applauded here for not taking the easy way out, not giving the traditional Hollywood approach of "love conquers all." This is as dark and sludgy as the blood being ripped from a young dealers throat.
Blumhouse continues to show that even with mega hits in theaters, they're the genre fans biggest aide, giving a voice to films such as this one. Catch it on Netflix now.