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Bloodshot Heart has an intriguing horror film premise initially but the recipe is missing a dash of something. The art house style, jigsaw puzzled narrative will likely turn off more than a few viewers early.
A shame because actress Dina Panozzo’s monologue about being ‘a widow with no one to dress up for anymore’ is the horror picture’s strongest scene and arrives mid-way through the film.
This review contains spoilers. Bloodshot Heart was provided by Fantaspoa Film Festival.
Bloodshot Heart lead Hans, a lonely driving school instructor played by actor Richard James Allen has a distinct One Hour Photo vibe. Hans lives with his mother Catherine and becomes devoutly preoccupied with Matilda, a tenant half his age.
Let’s start off by spotlighting Bloodshot Heart’s best scene, Dina Panozzo’s Catherine, the lead character’s mother, revealing her somber loneliness as a widow. Catherine emotionally explains to her son Hans she spends hours each day getting her makeup, wardrobe, and hair just right… Despite having no one to show it to anymore.
Now that Hans’ father is gone, Catherine’s friends left her at the doorstep. No doorbells ring but she has to keep up a facade. Her only son is all Catherine has in the later chapters of her life.
Catherine misses the days where Hans was a youngster and a receptive, doe-eyed audience to her wardrobe ‘fashion shows’. Hans independence makes Catherine feel that she’s being left behind by her last connection to the outside world. Thus, her antagonist nature toward his potential romantic interests.
Matlida, played by actress Emily David, shows up one day in the rain to rent a room in Catherine’s house and the infatuation is obvious. Hans just blatantly stares and stares at Matlida while barely uttering a word. A mix of a veteran’s thousand-yard stare and raw love potion.
It’s revealed that Hans previously felt this way about another tenant named Sara that his mother kicked out. They might have even had a real relationship prior. Easy Hitchcock style Psycho mother/son plot premise you would think. But Bloodshot Heart is anything but linear, constantly flashing back and forth to this vignettes of the past and present of Sara & Matilda in the same dress.
It’s not until almost midway through the film that it becomes more clear who Sara was and why Hans has an obsession with Matlida. Bloodshot Heart shows Hans throwing away his medication to explain his deteriorating state and kind of loophole its way out of a clear, linear narrative.
Hans’ constant daydreaming about Matlida leads him to placing his head on a student driver named Sally, played by Erica Long, which gets him on paid leave from work… Borderline fired. This is one of Richard James Allen’s better scenes as Hans before the vignettes & hallucinations become too numerous to keep track of properly.
As Hans’ insanity spirals out of control, he clashes with Matilda’s girlfriend, and eventually comes up with the film’s centerpiece plan.
Hans blackmails his two male workers by threatening to reveal their relationship with video footage. The demand? That they kidnap Matlida, so he can come in like Superman to rescue her from their clutches. An adult spin on a childlike plan.
Bloodshot Heart feels reminiscent of Hotline Miami here by having his co-workers wear masks of animals. An incoherent Hans soon attacks one of his partners-in-crime with a literal frying pan, and the film kind of loops through flashing light sequences.
Meanwhile, Matilda gets out on her own and takes out one of Hans’ co-workers. Hans himself takes out his co-conspirator then chases after Matlida who doesn’t see him as the knight and shining armor he hoped to be looked at. This whole sequence is kind of all over the place, instead of a slow and steady buildup.
Eventually, Hans’ own mother poisons him over a plate of pasta and his head falls flat into the bowl. Strange movie to say the least. Again, Dina Panozzo, an Australian-born actress of Italian descent (who speaks Italian throughout the film) shines in the credits scene of all places. The credits roll over ongoing footage of Catherine crying over her lost son, devastated.
Overall, Bloodshot Heart needed more tightening of the plot as the viewer never really becomes connected to Matlida in more than a superficial way. Ironically, no different than Hans himself seeing his former love Sara in her.
That would be expected if this was a typical ‘slasher’ horror film but Bloodshot Heart is not one. So the art house nature of the vignettes conflicts with the linear expectations of a traditional horror film audience.
The horror aspect of the kidnapping towards the end of the film seemed rushed to conclusion, although the blackmail plan initially had a unique take to it.
There was a lot more potential to be explored with Catherine and Hans’ connected synergy as older, seemingly forgotten, ‘disposable’ members of society.
This film is part of Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival of Porto Alegre. It ran for free on the streaming platform Darkflix. All film screenings were geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at www.fantaspoa.com.