Reeling after her latest novel flops, a best-selling crime writer is sent by her publisher to the Swedish countryside to regain inspiration. Totally out of place in her new surroundings, she discovers just how dangerous farm life can be.
From writer/director Patrick von Barkenberg and writer/producer Andréa Winter (who also did the score) comes the English/Swedish horror/mystery/comedy, Blood Paradise (that’s a lot of slashes). This “Swedish” film is actually mostly in English, which I think it’s pretty ballsy move for von Barkenberg’s directorial debut. Patrick von Barkenberg and Andréa Winter also play starring roles in the film; another confident, gutsy move that perhaps payed off.
So, how does it fare? Surprisingly well. I often find myself being nicer and more forgiving to indie films for their flaws and more critical of the bigger budget films because everyone loves an underdog…and because I expect more when your budget has more zeros than all of the Bond films combined. Blood Paradise needed none of my apprehension, sympathy or worry—it was sound on all of the big checkmarks: writing, acting, production value, cinematography, etc…this is upper echelon indie.
The film something is of a sexy, funny whodunnit. In retrospect, there was probably more nudity and sensuality than there was gore and horror, something I miss in modern films. Those classic horrors and mysteries of the ’60s and ’70s always had a focus on the beauty of the female form, and von Barkenberg takes us back to a time when mystery coupled conspicuously with sexuality, desire and jealousy. It genuinely felt like I was watching a classic rather than something just released, like a gernderbent homage to The House on Straw Hill (1976). The film is also clearly divided into shorter acts with small subtitles that pop up every now and again, adding to that retro feel.
My issues are twofold. Firstly, the pacing can be a little slow—specifically around the middle of the film. Sure, watching the gorgeous Robin Richards (Andréa Winter) and her pseudo-sexual misfortunes is fun and all, but it gets a little silly when coupled with the second issue…the plot is very obscure. This issue is the story itself, which isn’t really well conceived or expounded upon—we know what Richard’s deal is, but the farm family’s story is left up to the imagination, which tends to drift to the whole “Wrong Turn” breeding policy, with the Swedish folk seeming like they were plucked from an episode of The Twilight Zone. On the plus side, the cinematography is great, the acting pretty good, the setting beautiful, and the concept fun.
There are some deeper themes in the films, specifically relationships, emotional dependency, and sexual nonconformity. The film is casually sexy, making nudity a norm and pleasure a positive while highlighting various forms of toxic relationships. I liked that it tackled the themes of kinks, perversions, fetishes, and voyeurism with such an everyday attitude because it truly is an everyday, everyone issue.
I’ll close as the film does, with absolute style. Blood Paradise has the best intro AND outro scenes I’ve seen in the longest of times. It starts with a literal, colloquial, kinky bang and ends with beauty, style, grace, and gore. It’s not an intense film, but a directorial debut that pays homage to the mystery films of old, the gorgeous form of the female figure (here, surprisingly, the producer), and a genre of film not as popular as it once was. I had a lot of fun with this one and was thoroughly entertained from start to end. Sure, it fell short at times and dragged on a little with certain scenes, but I’m writing that off as a simple lack of experience from the director. Patrick von Barkenberg is one to watch and Andréa Winter is one who is definitely fun to watch. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
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