D: Alex Orr / 76m
Cast: Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Rowlett, Matt Hutchinson, Marla Malcolm, Mr. Malt, Matthew Stanton, Hawmi Guillebeaux, Bill Szymanski, Vince Canlas
With an introduction to camera that tells the viewer that the movie is set in the near future – “a couple of weeks from now” – Blood Car begins with elementary school teacher Archie (Brune) telling his class the story of the Little Engine That Could. It’s a neat foreshadowing of the movie to come and a great offset to the carnage in store for the viewer.
In the future, gas prices in America have hit record levels, around $30 a gallon. Having a car that runs is a rich man’s game, but Archie isn’t rich. He does have a car though, and a plan to run it using wheatgrass. But his plan isn’t working, the wheatgrass will only let the car run for a minute or two, and he’s close to giving up when he stumbles on the real fuel he needs to keep his car running. There’s no prizes for guessing it’s blood (this isn’t called Wheatgrass Car, after all), but therein lies a problem: Archie is a vegan; how will he be able to find enough blood to keep his car running?
The answer is: quite easily. After some attempts at despatching the local wildlife, Archie graduates to larger animals i.e. dogs, but they’re simply not large enough to provide sufficient blood. When his neighbour, Mrs Butterfield (Barbara Carnes) passes away unexpectedly, it’s just a short drop from her veranda to the back of Archie’s car where he’s developed a contraption that is basically part blender and part engine. From then on, finding “donors” is only the first of Archie’s mounting problems.
Problem number one is Denise (Rowlett). She’s interested in Archie because of his car and is willing to let him sleep with her if he drives her around; their relationship becomes dependent on Archie finding enough blood for his car. Problem number two is Lorraine (My Girl‘s Chlumsky), who is attracted to Archie but begins to have suspicions about his car when he stops buying wheatgrass from her. Problem number three is the government: agents are sent to steal the car for the government’s own purposes and Archie has to fend them off almost continuously. And problem number four is Archie’s deteriorating mental stability; after all, how can someone kill so many people and not have it affect them?
Adopting a grind house approach, Blood Car is a very black comedy and some aspects will doubtless offend people – Archie’s shooting at a dog tied to a stake; one of Archie’s pupils being shot in the head at point blank range; the final “throwaway” shot involving a baby – but the movie is very funny and if the humour is a little bit offensive in places then it’s balanced by moments where the script (by Orr and Adam Pinney) displays some fine touches – the predatory Denise letting Archie see her vulnerable side by inviting him back to her place; Archie having sex with Lorraine but clearly not enjoying the experience; Archie being carjacked and then debating the finer points of gas consumption with the carjacker (Mr. Melt); and the answer to the age-old question: how far will you get when the disabled war veteran you feed to your car has plastic legs and a plastic arm? (The answer is: not far.)
The script, however, does falter at times. Lorraine is underused, and once she and Archie sleep together, the script doesn’t know what to do with her. The government agents are presented as either stupid or psychotic, or both, and the eventual meeting between Archie and Agent Watkins (Hutchinson) reads like the conspiracy theories of a confused pot smoker. The editing is also clumsy at times, leaving the viewer wondering if what they’re seeing is happening in the right order (it’s a weird effect but that’s the best way to describe it). There’s an initial over-reliance on public domain classical music on the soundtrack, and the movie itself ends rather abruptly.
Further on the plus side, the general tone of the movie is feverish and this suits the subject matter perfectly, while the performances are likeable with Brune well cast in particular. There’s very little gore despite the killing method, but there is the requisite number of bare breasts on display throughout (watch out as well for the fantasy art that Lorraine has drawn of her and Archie). Orr, making his feature debut, shows a sure hand and keeps things moving along at a good pace while allowing his principal cast plenty of room to flesh out their characters. The satire is cleverly worked into the proceedings and the various messages surrounding society’s approach to consumption and waste are presented organically and without resorting to tub-thumping.
NOTE: When Archie and Denise are at the drive-in, the movie they’re watching is Stomp! Shout! Scream! (2005). Alex Orr appears in that movie as Deputy Frank.
Rating: 7/10 – hugely enjoyable satirical horror with a bit of a soft heart amidst the carnage; well worth tracking down despite (or maybe because of) its low-budget limitations.
Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.