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New Release Review - BLOOD RUSH (VOD)

A model becomes trapped following a car crash, relying on a sociopath on the end of her phone line for help.



Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Harris Demel

Starring: Michael Madsen, Stella Maeve, Evan Taubenfeld, Ashley Carin



Blood Rush’s tight rhythm builds to a conclusion that is both satisfying and clever, and a welcome addition to the ‘stuck-in-one-unlikely-location’ subgenre. It's not without flaws, but works with what it has to impressive results, offering wily thrills and exciting suspense.


Within the superficial remits of a celebrity fixated culture, pretty model Nicole (Stella Maeve) would seem to have it all. With her looks and her clothes, the whispered excitement and sneaky camera snaps from passers-by as she chills with her popstar boyfriend Scotty Dee (Evan Taubenfeld), Nicole is an epitome of a certain type of aspiration; the sort of mid-level celebrity whose profile rises and falls upon Instagram followers and her respective number of ‘likes’. But all that twitters is not gold, as Nicole is about to have her entire world flipped upside down - literally, as a road accident leaves her stranded in the wilderness, her car overturned with Scotty dead and Nicole still trapped inside. Punching random numbers into her damaged phone, Nicole manages to get hold of the mysterious Casey (Michael Madsen), but will this mercurial stranger prove to be more of a hazard than a help?
Harris Demel’s film has a superb narrative economy, with the early scenes establishing Nicole’s character and situation with suitably brutal efficiency. The single location trope is a low budget staple which can be harder to successfully pull off than it may seem, but Demel realises Nicole’s entrapment well, making convincing use of the limited space. With judicious framing, the film affects an acute claustrophobia, and we feel Nicole’s frustration and terror through Maeve’s convincing performance. Occasional cuts to rocky panoramas suffuse the wide open landscape with threat; the wilderness, with its flash storms and rousing winds, is a far cry from al fresco coffee with a hot dude. However, Blood Rush balances the survival horror aspects of Nicole’s plight (a wolf pads about attempting to snack on Scotty Dee’s perfect cheekbones, and then, in a moment of slight absurdity, a snake also appears!) with the cat and mouse pertinence of her and Casey’s phone dialogue; as Casey holds Nicole to conversational ransom, the film ventures into the more complex territory of the psychological thriller.
For a generation, Michael Madsen will always embody a certain menace, and sure enough, even unseen, here his disembodied voice has a smouldering sense of danger, a mocking tone that deconstructs the superficiality and dishonesty of Nicole’s existence - there’s a scene where Casey slowly pours himself a glass (‘a frosted glass’) of soda, and to the parched Nicole, it’s an act as wilfully cruel as lopping off her ear. Following on from the perceived idealism of the opening scenes, as she is trapped in the car Nicole is forced to face the acute artificiality of her life, and so the burning automobile becomes an ersatz purgatory, as Casey questions why Nicole haughtily introduces herself as ‘Nicole Diamond, the model’ and also wonders why she would stay with the physically abusive Scotty (in one moment that darkly invokes that famous Jerry Maguire phone moment, Casey has Nicole scream ‘I hate him! I fucking HATE HIM’ about the dead man strapped next to her). ‘You never know, you might end up falling in love with me’, Casey cheekily states, after creepily listing facets of Nicole’s life garnered from her wiki page. The tension created is compelling: she needs Casey, but how much is Nicole willing to give in order to survive?
Blood Rush’s tight rhythm builds to a conclusion that is both satisfying and clever, and a welcome addition to the ‘stuck-in-one-unlikely-location’ subgenre. Like its central character, Blood Rush is not without flaws, but also like Nicole, who makes a virtue of necessity with her broken mirror weapon and endless resolve, this pacey indie works with what it has to impressive results, offering wily thrills and exciting suspense.
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