Blood Conscious is socially-charged horror that plays with race and racial tensions in a way that feels meditative rather than exploitative. Its examinations stay mostly surface level, lacking spice and depth amongst the commentary. Writer/ director Timothy Covell wears influences on his sleeve and pulls decent performances from an extremely talented and diverse cast. When two siblings (Oghenero Gbaje and DeShawn White) and the sister’s fiancé (Lenny Thomas) head out to a cabin in the woods to visit their family (in beautiful opening shots reminiscent of The Shining), the place seems completely deserted. They soon discover their parents (and the neighbors!) brutally murdered, and a raging psycho with a shotgun has stuck around to pay them an ominous greeting. The stranger (Nick Damici) claims that the others are all demons, and one of them could be too! Like one of the characters opines, “he’s no psychologist, but he is a psychopath.”
The script is occasionally smart, but it’s lacking fire and propulsion in the suspense. The characters have completely cavalier attitudes when it comes to mass murder. They react to their entire family being slaughtered as if it’s a regular occurrence. This could be chalked up to acting talent—however, I think the fault lies in the script. It seems stuck in the ancient horror tropes of characters making bad decisions, and fails to excuse these decisions in a convincing way.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun with Blood Conscious—when it’s good, it’s genuinely great. The sense of mania brought on by not knowing if someone is a demon vs if the stranger is lying about it all in the first place is constantly hanging over the film. When the paranoia hits its peak near the end, it becomes immensely more interesting. Oghenero Gbaje is also excellent as the film’s male lead, glimmering with promising young talent. He handles every twist and turn in a convincing way, and makes his character more appealing than on the page.
Blood Conscious doesn’t culminate in a satisfying conclusion, and the great qualities come too little too late to salvage all of what transpired before. The ending sputters out just as it’s getting interesting, seemingly concluding in the middle of a scene. I think despite faults with the film itself, Timothy Covell emerges as a strong voice fluent in genre imagery and sensibility. I would love to see where he goes next as a filmmaker.
Blood Conscious screened at the virtual Panic Fest, April 8th – 18th. It also comes to VOD and in theaters this summer, from Dark Sky Films.