Blood Punch DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Midnight Releasing
Directed by Madellaine Paxson
Written by Eddie Guzelian
2013, 105 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on September 1st, 2015
Milo Cawthorne as Milton
Olivia Tennet as Skyler
Ari Boyland as Russell
Adelaide Kane as Nabiki
Cohen Holloway as Archer
Milton wakes in an unfamiliar hunting lodge just in time to get sick. He races to the bathroom where he discovers a mysterious recording device with a cryptic note reading: “Play Me Now”. Milton is shocked to discover a message recorded directly to him... from him. How is this possible and what is going on? Video Milton begins a detailed account of a very bizarre series of events that actual Milton finds difficult to grasp. We learn through a series of flashbacks that our protagonist was recently serving out a stint in a rehab facility following the discovery of his on-campus meth-lab. Four months shy of his scheduled release, Milton’s life forever changes once Skyler enters the picture. She offers to help Milton leave the building tonight if he agrees to cook a massive one-time batch of meth for her and her boyfriend, Russell. Milton is not completely sold on the proposition, but a little sweet loving and the promise of a pile of cash are enough to convince him it is time to check out of this clinic early. Soon, our unlikely trio is on their way to the remote lodge and celebrating with lots of drugs.
The next morning Milton assumes the duties of drug cooking, and things go surprisingly well... until Russell threatens to kill him with a very large gun. Luckily, only our reluctant chemist knows the secret process by which to create the highest quality product, or so he believes until Russell is able to quote the entire procedure flawlessly. Skyler cannot sit back and allow Russell to kill Milton, so she murders her boyfriend and promises everything will be different in the morning. When Milton wakes, he is once again sick and soon greeted by Russell as though nothing happened, and it is here that things start to get weird. What follows is a bizarre mystery of sorts and as cliché as it sounds, nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. What viewers can look forward to is an entertaining ride of trial and error, in which our characters steadily play through countless scenarios in their attempts to escape this endless predicament.
The people that brought you the kid favorite Kim Possible and a bunch of direct-to-video Disney sequels have teamed with the cast of Power Rangers R.P.M. to create a dark spin on Groundhog Day. Technically not a spoiler, the central premise of Blood Punch is that our characters are caught in a time loop, doomed to repeat the same day over and over again unless they can discover a way out. Eddie Guzelian’s screenplay is a (mostly) well-written puzzle that repeatedly folds back on its self as more information is slowly revealed. There are a few bumps in the first act and some nagging loose ends (discussed below), but several of the possibilities are addressed head-on. Director Madellaine Paxson keeps things moving as the various interludes play out from one “Tuesday” to the next, while mining the script for every bit of black humor possible. Working closely with cinematographer Neil Cervin, she creates a variety of different visual styles for the locations in and around the lodge. While the majority of the feature is set indoors, the exterior sequences in which our characters are either in the woods or occasionally a cave lit by firelight are frequently beautiful.
The small cast of Blood Punch does a fine job with the material, though all three of the main actors are a bit rough around the edges. Milo Cawthorne (Deathgasm) makes for a strong protagonist and keeps audiences rooting for Milton even when he suffers from poor judgement. I found his performance the strongest of our leads and look forward to seeing more work from him in the future. Ari Boyland (Joker’s Wild) gives what at first glance appears a one-note spin as the psychotic Russell, but this is actually a more nuanced delivery suggesting he is a much stronger actor than the role would allow. Boyland has the least amount of screen time, especially when much of it is filled with almost robotic repetition, but he manages to remain interesting throughout. Olivia Tennet (Ozzie) has the difficult challenge of playing Skyler as calculating and cool without appearing to be trying too hard in doing so. She succeeds more often than not, but when placed in highly emotional situations she flounders, making her strongest moments those she shares when interacting with Russell. Not all of this is her fault, however, as the script is often too concerned with making people sound more clever than realistic.
Fans of horror movies like Triangle (2009) and Haunter (2013) will definitely want to check out Blood Punch. There are a few holes in the through line that keep me from giving it a solid recommendation, but there are more working parts than not. One brief example dips into minor spoiler territory in that the time loop concept is studied in detail for two thirds of this film, but fails to address some key aspects. The cycle does not make you suffer amnesia, but rather erases all knowledge of the previous “day”, so why Milton’s urgent video includes extensive details of events (from rehab) he should already remember, rather than simply begin with sharing the crucial information right away, is both frustrating and unnecessary. There are other problems concerning what items stay and which vanish when the loop resets, but rather than pick at the logic, I choose to enjoy the overall project and accept that the film simply invites further audience discussion.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Blood Punch receives an above average transfer for a direct-to-video release. Colors and black levels are strong and flesh tones appear natural throughout. There are a few moments of digital noise, but these are deliberate on the part of the filmmakers.
A decent 5.1 surround mix is not necessarily the most robust audio you are likely to find, but there are some nice directional sound effects that add to the fun inside the cabin. A 2.0 stereo track is also offered and is serviceable, but I encourage the expanded mix.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Although we are denied an audio commentary, there are a number of appealing special features included on this release. I would be interested in hearing the director’s thoughts on her approach to the material, however.
A batch of deleted scenes (17 minutes) offer additional bits of dialogue and were wisely trimmed, likely for pacing. “Chainsaw to the Head” is my personal favorite of the collection.
Test Footage (11 minutes) includes an alternate title sequence and a scene with relevant info concerning my dilemma regarding the daily changes in the loop. Otherwise, these are extended or deleted scenes before color correction or proper mixing.
There are two sets of bloopers; Test Footage Outtakes (7 minutes), featuring some surprisingly amusing clips of blown lines and other flubs, and Production Outtakes (9 minutes) which offer even more wacky moments that are actually entertaining to watch. The two could have easily been combined, but the split makes them easier to digest.
A teaser trailer (2 minutes) offers an early glimpse at how the film was marketed. The full trailer is not offered.
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