BLOOD PARADISE is a 2018 independent horror film that was released in July by Artsploitation on disc and digital – they must’ve sent it to me because I was on their list from reviewing RONDO. Like that one it’s a low budget movie from some hard working unknowns, but it gets huge mileage out of a great cast, some good cinematography and nice scenery. It’s simple, but it’s slick and has a distinct oddness and humor, and it’s over in 84 minutes without feeling rushed. Not bad.
Robin Richards (Andréa Winter) is a rich and world famous author of what I gather to be the type of novels that sell alot of hard cover copies at airports. But the latest in her once popular Blood Paradise series is a flop, so her agent convinces her to go on a retreat. Why not stop all this laying around in the sun at her picturesque Italian villa when she could rent a small cottage on a farm in Sweden and get started on the next book?
The accommodations turn out to be less than luxurious, and she’s not the kind of person who enjoys seeing farm animals slaughtered outside her window. As if that’s not bad enough, it quickly becomes clear that she’s surrounded by potential creepos. Whether they are just weird or worthy of fearing remains to be seen.
The best supporting character is Hans (Christer Cavallius), her awkward driver who turns out to be a fan and aspiring writer. I assumed he was making a DIE HARD joke when he said “you can call me Hans Bubi,” but all the plot summaries I’ve found seem to take that as his actual name. He inspires a good mix of sympathy and discomfort. Another idiotic man in Robin’s life is her very hip, kinda vulnerable, largely stupid and highly allergic boyfriend Teddy (Patrick von Barkenberg), who is supposed to be arriving to meet her soon, but we’ll see if that really happens – they said the same thing about the husband in LADY STAY DEAD.
It has some style to it – well shot with Alexa cameras, the type of artful nudity that might cause someone to call it “erotic,” some nice magic hour shots, a very slow dissolve so cool it made me kind of gasp. Music is used well, although the score stopped impressing me once I realized they were re-using the same roll of percussion over normal shots every time they wanted things to seem ominous. Started to feel like a cheat.
I guess it’s kind of shitty luck that they ended up making a vacation-to-Sweden-gone-wrong movie around the same time as MIDSOMMAR, and it’s not at all the same type of movie, so they can’t really market it like a mockbuster. Maybe this is a Scandinavia thing, but it reminded me tonally of IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, that Norwegian movie that was remade as COLD PURSUIT with Liam Neeson. Both have this deadpan chronicling of a set of quiet, reserved oddballs in a sparse landscape where people keep getting offed. And I suppose Hans’ whole goofy style and demeanor reminded me of that film’s villain The Count, though he’s a very different character who’s hard to fit into a category. At first he seems like he could be a minor character, just the driver who shows up late to pick her up in a small, regular car with a couch tied to the roof. But the movie starts to follow his home life, his fights with his wife about their cluttered home, his dream of being a writer, and his attraction to Robin.
It’s funny because his wife goes nuclear over completely innocent admiration for Robin’s books, but also Hans happens to be a pervy obsessed creep who steals articles of her clothing and stuff. I guess she just knows him better than we do.
I think the one thing that could put it over the top would be some real makeup FX work. There’s some blood and some death, but it’s the kind of stuff any nobody can put in their low budget movie. I think it needed something impressive to show it means business. Still, it’s got enough personality to it to get by.
For sure the movie’s greatest strength is in its lead. There are times when the seams show (for example some media coverage of Robin’s career doesn’t seem entirely authentic) but it’s still easy to accept Winter as this famous writer because she looks so larger than life – I’m sure you could mistake photos of her for the lead in an Italian film from the ‘60s or ‘70s – and has such a strong presence. It’s hard to imagine her not holding wine glasses and wearing expensive, fashionable, not-appropriate-for-a-farm clothes and shoes. As Hans’ wife says jealously, “She looks like a fucking model.”
After a little searching I figured out she did come to the U.S. to model, then called Andrea Wahlgren, before studying acting. I was surprised to discover that this is her first feature film, though she did several shorts. She also wrote BLOOD PARADISE, produced it, composed the score, designed the sets, supervised the costumes, did some additional photography and editing. (I guess it’s the kind of movie where you credit every little thing you did.) Von Barkenberg, who’s really funny as Teddy, is the director, and co-writer. And I can’t believe that Christer Cavallius has no other film credits at all. He’s a stage actor.
I hope we’ll see more from all of these people.