Blood Rites (2011) – By Cary Conley

Blood Rites follows a foursome of friends who set up a drug buy with some local skinheads. When the deal goes bad, the group breaks up and each individual makes their way to their pre-planned meeting place, an abandoned warehouse, to deal with the fallout. With no drugs and no money and one of the group dying from a gut shot, the meeting is further complicated by the fact that one of the would-be criminals brings three hostages along–an Amish family. What ensues is a mysterious, perhaps supernatural, and very energetic set of events that will leave only one person standing in the end.

Blood Rites is essentially a crime drama–not dissimilar to Reservoir Dogs in many ways–that is being marketed as a horror film. To be sure, there are some elements of horror in the story, including a subplot of Satanic worshippers performing a Black Mass. And the Amish family may or may not actually be Amish…they might be linked to the Satanic worshippers, and their strange language along with the mother’s outlandish behavior sure seems to indicate something more than friendly country folk out for a stroll.

Director Dorothy Booraem does a superb job of wringing every cent from this micro-budgeted film. She is clearly an excellent technical director and there is much that is good about the film. For starters, the lighting and cinematography are quite well-done, especially considering that most of the film takes place in a dark and cavernous warehouse. For many films, this would spell doom as the images would sink into the murky darkness of said warehouse. But Booraem and cinematographer Chad Haufschild keep the lighting gloomy but clear, allowing for nearly all the action and actors’ expressions to be seen. Haufschild also uses some fantastic angles and shots to keep things interesting as well. The sound, which can typically be a problem for these types of indie films, is also extremely good. And if the mood isn’t creepy enough, the music is subtle and atmospheric as well, a definite high point for the film.

And while Blood Rites is no gore fest, it still has an enough blood and violence to please most horror fans. The effects range from very good (removal of a bullet from a wound) to average (flesh being sliced by a knife) to bad (a couple of digital effects are quite obvious), but are generally decent enough that they can be looked over.

Unfortunately, the story is a bit confusing and the actors, almost all of whom are relative newcomers to film, begin to grate on the nerves after a while. The acting isn’t terrible, and ranges from average to superb (the Satanists’ roommate that discovers their corpses). The problem is that none of the characters is sympathetic in the least. They are either irritatingly crazed (the Amish mother), whiny (the Amish girl), or just plain mean (all the rest). It’s difficult to root for someone when you don’t like a single character. The story is also a bit convoluted and contains a couple of undeveloped subplots (the Satanic worshiper angle and the Amish family angle) that probably are meant as red herrings to string the audience along with the supernatural theme. Unfortunately, these subplots become more of a liability than a plot device.

Overall, Blood Rites is an above average micro-budget film with a number of positives that ultimately suffers because of some basic flaws. For more information about the film and the filmmakers, please see http://www.bloodritesmovie.com.