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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 08.26.09] France movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Jean-Marc Vincent
Writers: Jean-Marc Vincent & Hubert Chardot & Emmanuelle Escourrou
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 2 out of 10

In 1990, a small movie carved itself a name in the horror-comedy genre. The plot was about motherly love and sacrifice. In a small town north of France a circus and its surroundings are caught in a whirlwind of horror and gore after the death of a newly imported leopard. Some strange parasite inside the cat burrows itself inside Yanka, the downtrodden pregnant wife of the circus-owner, and takes control or her fetus. It soon starts demanding blood, and the woman goes searching for victims for her new baby, leaving a trail of bodies behind her until the monster finally crawls out of her and disappear in the ocean.

More than a decade after Babyblood left its mark on the audience, a sequel is finally there. The trailer is a promising, fast paced blood fest with cannibalism and buckets of gore splattered over a death metal score. Lured by these few minutes of feisty carnage I went to the theater, expecting much. Unfortunately, there are some things in life that must not be disturbed else tentacle-ridden monsters with a headache and halitosis emerges from the dark corners of your living-room. Baby Blood was, without a doubt, one of these things.

The "loosely” based upon sequel, Lady Blood, is sold on the pitch of “the monster is back” and is beyond anything you could imagine. Honestly, I had some trouble even finding ways to transcribe the feelings this “masterpiece” imprinted on my helpless brain during the fateful hours I spent alone in her shady theater. Italian horror maestro, Lucio Fulci believed that films needed to be experienced and should be trips to the border of consciousness and symbolism- Technicolor rides not to be analyzed but felt. As a rule, if you keep these words in mind everything is watchable and entertaining. Every rule has its exception.

As a matter of fact, with more than a 15-years lapse between the two flicks, there was potential for Lady Blood to exploit and expand what was developed in the original movie. It could have been frightening, with eerie Lovecraftian feelings associated to anything coming from the sea to devour, maim and mutilate people. It could have been full of tentacles, or galleons of blood topping gritty murders like hot fudge on a freshly baked cheesecake. It could have starred a vampire duck from mars. Even the incredible gap between the two movies could have been milked in dogma-esque postulate of”waiting for the actors to age before shooting something involving their future selves”. It should have had at least one of the above! It has none.

On the whole, the entertainment factor of a dung beetle crossing a road is higher, not to mention the whole thing has the credibility of a chocolate kettle.

Let's dwell into the damage:

First of all, Lady Blood is not a comedy. It's a serious movie. Or at least it tries to be. This is somewhat of a shock when you’re excepting a tongue-in-cheek blood bath. The plot tries really hard to be complex, involving subplots merging into one at the end.

We follow Yanka (heroine of the first opus who is now a clichésque combo of loving mother and local wonder cop) as she tries to fight off a mafia-posse trying to get hold of the town, a serial killer with a taste for human faces, and her own gory past for the monster she gave birth to is haunting her nights again.

And that’s it, there is nothing more in the script that can be described without spoiling the whole. Many a movie with such a simple start reached some of the highest peaks of fame and glory, there’s not much to say about “Evil dead” plot for example. When brilliantly executed, even the simplest pitch can be a winner. Alas, neither the horror nor the thriller elements of the script are developed enough to sustain the original intention. In the end the overall feel of the script is of a cheap NYPD-blue-spin off Halloween special.

Our French readers will surely understand what I mean by "Julie Lescaut against the fish from hell", for those not acquainted with French television “Julie lescaut” is a cop show where on the overall we see more of the heroine daily life than any actual investigation on the cases. Lady Blood could have been written by the same team. Most of the movie is a collection of “scenettes” around the theme of “Yanka gets drunk with her new partner”, “Yanka takes a shower”, “Yanka picks up her daughter from school”, with the actual plot trying to get along on itself in-between. The actual horror and gore is entirely shown in the trailer, so don’t expect to be surprised by any of it.

All that and with a twist so old at the end, it was already out of style when Moses was a teenager.

Anyway, without the unfathomable seriousness and hauteur of the whole, such flaws could have been washed away. But there is a Nevada sized gap between making a movie seriously, and making a serious movie and one should not try to do the second before having mastered the first.

The global production value is such a joke the movie falls flat and boring, with occasional bursts of laughter at the damage. To say it bluntly, with that level of craftsmanship, one should stick to shelling peas. For example a seesaw on the frontal lobe is about cars. When you locate your plot in the south of France, having all the cars on screen with Paris and suburbs license plates is a no go. I spent half the movie cursing those damn plates. "So, are we in Paris ? Oh no, near Clermont-ferrand ... er there is no sea there so why the harbor?” It's amateurish and annoying. A set of plates is around 25 Euros so for the peace of mind of your audience, stick to something in line with the geographical location of your script. Really, it's like slapping the audience in the face with a cod each time they start to believe in the story.

Next on the casualties list is the good old "suspension of disbelief," lying dead by the road of preposterous carac-design, and small-change props. The whole point of any entertainment form is to divert from reality, not to constantly remind the audience that they are watching something fake. Therefore I must state clearly here that a cardboard box and two pillows in white linen do NOT look like a corpse in a body bag. It wiggles when carried and feels so lightweight on screen you start giggling at it.

Third on my long list of things not to do is: when you have a monster switching from body to body, you should capitalize on the paranoia-inducing ramifications of such a plot device. Do not just glue the same cheap solar glasses on him from beginning to end. That is really just taking the audience for a bunch of toddlers with the attention span of dormice.

And it goes on and on ad nauseam.

To sum it all: the special effects are on the wrong side of cheap, the plot is a badly glued together succession of deus ex machina and clichés, the whole feeling of the movie is of a cheap telenovella. And as with any telenovella, the only way to enjoy it is to beat your common sense to death to get over the sheer stupidity of the whole.

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