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AFF2012: It's in the Blood

Lance Henriksen keens and roils with redneck angst on VOD today

By Richard Whittaker, 12:10PM, Fri. Oct. 26, 2012

Lance Henriksen stares into the abyss in the cerebral shocker 'It's in the Blood'
Lance Henriksen stares into the abyss in the cerebral shocker 'It's in the Blood'

"I have nothing on my life but white noise," Lance Henriksen bleakly intones as Russell, the drunken, fallen sherrif and father at the bleak core of It's In The Blood. The Texas slow-burn shocker hits VOD today after a jaw-dropping screening at the Austin Film Festival.

I swear, when the Oscars finally do right by Henriksen, it'll be a long overdue and mislabeled award, like the one they gave to Jack Palance for Shane. Oh, they said it was for City Slickers, but we all know better. And it will be for films like It's in the Blood that Henriksen's stature will be rooted.

No-one does redneck pain like Henriksen. He may have entered cinema history as Bishop, the more humane than human android of Aliens, but he never surpassed the tortured depths – in life and death – of Ed Harley, the angry heart and soul of the Pumpkinhead franchise.

Russell is cut from the same ripped cloth as Harley, a man hardened by years of loneliness, trying to bond with his long-separated son October (co-writer Sean Elliot.) The pair have reunited for a hike in the woods, years after the loss of October's adopted sister Iris. But something has turned their long-overdue bonding opportunity/primitive primal scream therapy into a hunting trip.

It's not that they're far from civilization: It's that far is a different deal when you're out in the woods, one with a busted leg, and there's something weird, skittering and chittering out in the trees, just lurking at the edge of your eyeball.

It's in the Blood plays its cards close to its chest whether there's something supernatural, brutal, or just animalistic waiting for them beyond the camp fire. It's undoubtedly a blood-streaked metaphor for the agony of guilt between the pair. If it does have horror roots, its in the mournful, threatening, naturalistic tone of doomed love story Seventh Moon or psychic collapse drama Lovely Molly. Surprisingly, considering how gruesome it gets, it hits you hard in the heart, rather than turning your stomach.

For a microbudget horror, lensed near Austin at Spiderwood Studios, it's undoubtedly ambitious. Elliot and co-writer/director Scooter Downey are trying to create a new genre that they call Psyche-Saga, a visual tone poem approach that shows and doesn't tell. It's elegiac, haunting and, ultimately, uplifting.

There's little surprising in the story: If you haven't figured out the family trauma that binds and splits the boys within 20 minutes, check your caffeine levels. The narrative also depends on October having a photographic memory (a gimmick that is deployed heavily but to great effect, and never feels intrusive.) The story's victory is how it pulls the audience to the big reveal, as blood is spilled and the pain between the men is, if not drained, then at least brokered.

At the AFF screening, Downey admitted that they left a lot of narrative on the cutting room floor – not least some effects work that didn't pass muster. But that hack and slash leaves plenty of space for the heavy silences between father and son. Rather than a bloated family melodrama with eerie overtones, it's a taut 81 minutes of madness and humanity. It's in the Blood is a soul-baring Southern-tinged tale blame, shame, grief and redemption, as the fragments of a family stare into the blinking abyss of the wilderness and the strange, strained bonds between them.

It's in the Blood is available now through cable VOD, Vudu, ITunes and Amazon.

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