A horror film about a female singer-songwriter transforming into a werewolf, peppered with original indie pop earworms, sounds – on paper – like it would be pure camp. However, Bloodthirsty takes itself more seriously than its premise allows, and its struggle to balance a slow-burning character study with a gory monster movie unfortunately leaves you hungry for more.
Bloodthirsty is written by mother and daughter Wendy Hill-Tout and Lowell Boland, a.k.a. Canadian indie pop singer Lowell. Boland drew from personal experience when penning the story of musician protagonist Grey (Lauren Beatty) and the anxiety Grey feels when embarking on the production of her sophomore album. Fittingly, this is also director Amelia Moses’ second feature, following on from 2020’s Bleed with Me, another horror collaboration with actor Lauren Beatty.
After a hit debut album, the pressure is high for Grey to replicate this success in her follow-up record, and with ‘90s-boy-band-member-turned-legendary-producer Vaughn Williams (Greg Bryk) on board it all seems to be falling into place. There’s just a couple of caveats: Vaughn is a creepy recluse who was on trial for murdering his wife and Grey is emotionally unstable, suffering frequent hallucinations of herself transforming into an animal. Grey’s painter girlfriend, Lauren (Katharine King So), is understandably wary of this professional partnership but nonetheless accompanies Grey to Vaughn’s snow-covered mansion in the wilderness.
Bloodthirsty shares aspects with Raw (2016) as Grey, a vegan, gets sudden cravings for raw meat and flesh, resulting in some delightfully gory sequences later in the film. Her visions of growing animal features like long talons for nails, yellow eyes, and fangs, are reminiscent of the body horror of Black Swan. The gore is certainly the most satisfying aspect of the film, while the exploration of Grey’s character and her relationship with Vaughn leads to a disappointing, almost soap opera-esque payoff. You struggle to empathise with the lead character, or any of the characters, in fact; none of them feels fully fleshed-out. Grey frequently comes across as a pushover whose motivations are hard to comprehend; she so readily accepts Vaughn’s disconcerting behaviour and follows his orders, including to stop taking her anti-psychotic medication, without question or hesitation.
Ultimately, the viewer is left craving something with more substance. It’s a real shame, because the film’s premise has definite potential, but the true horrors of the music industry are not explored as fully as they could be.
Bloodthirsty is available to Download & Keep now and on DVD through Frightfest Presents from August 30th.