Writer-director Jennifer Phillips makes her film debut with Blood Child, a horror fantasy that combines every parent’s worst nightmare with the Malay myth of the Toyol, ghost children raised by black magic, devastating all involved. Blood Child world premiered at Toronto’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, where lead actress Alyx Melone took home the Rising Star Award.
After suffering a devastating miscarriage in Singapore, Ashley turns to a witch doctor to help her with the occult practice of raising a “ghost child” and finding the spirit of her lost child. After returning to the States, Ashley and her husband Bill find themselves pregnant again. However, their happiness is short-lived as the pregnancy acts as a catalyst for a series of terrifying events that start to occur within their home. The family soon learns that Ashley has brought back a lot more than just memories from Asia. The spirit of their lost child is not about to play second fiddle to the impending new arrival, and unleashes an unspeakable evil upon the household.
Blood Child is your typical, haunting-style horror film relying heavily on the creepy ghost-child trope. The story follows a small family; Ashley, Bill, and Siti, who return to the USA after Ashley loses her unborn child in Singapore. Being told that she would most likely never be able to conceive again, Ashley enters a downward spiral of depression and despair, becoming obsessed with her departed, unborn child, eventually asking her live-in housekeeper about summoning the departed foetus (which, for some unbeknownst reason, comes back as a 9-year-old girl?). The actual scenes of the conjuring of the child are told through a number of small flashbacks but most of the esoteric elements are largely omitted from the film, instead hinted at through a number of visual and script related cues. She builds an unhealthy, dangerous relationship with the spirit, but once she falls pregnant again, jealousy and malicious intent begin to haunt the family and their friends, putting all in danger.
The film proudly presents itself as a true story, with the obligatory names changed to protect the claimants (probably from people calling them liars). The based on a true story thing has been a laughable concept since the 90's, with pretty much everyone except the most gullible of viewers knowing that they are watching fantasy. Hell, even the latest Warren films (The Conjuring and Annabelle franchises) have stopped pretending to be based on reality. Sure, the Malay myth is a real thing, and I have no doubt that some people handle miscarriage terribly (I did myself) but the fact remains that I'd have been happier sitting down to watch this film and enjoy the story without someone trying to insult my intelligence.
I found the film itself rather well made. The direction was good, as was the editing and atmosphere and all those technical details that can really make or break a film. Pacing, lighting, camera work, and special effects were all on a more than acceptable level, with newcomer Jennifer Phillips already having decent style and obvious talent. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the cast.
In true American tradition, our protagonists are way too good looking. This may sound like a trivial complaint, but I'd have preferred average looking actors with talent over beautiful people without. I suppose it's easier to make Bill's infidelity believable if he's got the looks to make cheating easy, but no one was likeable, except maybe Siti at a push. You are able to get over the acting and enjoy the movie once you acclimatise yourself to the infomercial -level performances, and it was really my only gripe with the film.
For all intents and purposes, Blood Child is a decent, well-made, haunting-styled horror film. If you enjoy the genre, this one will absolutely tide you over until the big October (Halloween) films start rolling out. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Catch the trailer below.
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