Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh

Grade : B+ Year : 2017 Director : Jakob Bilinski Running Time : 2hr 21min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

It’s been several years since I’d last seen a film from writer-director Jakob Bilinski. I’ve been Facebook friends with him since I watched three of his directorial efforts almost back-to-back-to-back (“Foxxy Madonna vs. The Black Death,” “Shade of Grey” and “Obsolescence”). I’ve seen him post about “Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh” for a while (the film has been on the festival circuit since 2014), and finally had the chance to watch it this year, as it’s hit DVD. It wasn’t until I went back to format the reviews I’d previously done about his work that I remembered what that work was, and why it’s exciting that he is making a horror film. (“Foxxy Madonna” was the first filmmaker request film I’d given my highest rating to.) Each film of his I’ve seen has been a different genre; it was only a matter of time before he hit the horror genre, and it’s worth the wait.

The film starts with a paranoid young woman, Lexie (Sidney Shripka), murdered in the woods by a masked killer. She is trying to get a hold of her uncle, Dominic (Bill Gobin), but he left his phone at home. He comes home to find his daughter, Kendall (Kayla Crance), fooling around with a boy, and with that anger, he checks his messages and finds out that Lexie is dead. He and Kendall go to the town her and her mother live in for the funeral, and Dominic begins looking into the death. He felt a deeper connection for Lexie than he does his own daughter. When he was checking his messages, before he finds out she is dead, he sees a letter than she sent him talking about weird happenings in the town. This is what leads him down the rabbit hole of looking into her death, and he ruffles more than a few feathers doing so.

The longer the film goes on, the more the central mystery of the story is revealed. Without getting too deep into spoilers, I couldn’t help but feel like this is the film M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” became, but it commits to it more honestly than just a “twist ending” change-up. We see a town-wide conspiracy unfold that will get anyone killed who talks about it, and there are some bodies along the way. Bilinski has told this story with a striking visual style that emphasizes colors and makes even mundane scenes like Kendall hanging out with classmates of Lexie’s look oddly unsettling and uneasy. It’s probably more stylized than it needs to be, but it does draw us in to the world Bilinski is setting up, which also has a deep intrigue in the occult, as we gather during one evening party Kendall goes to, and a moment when Dominic goes to interrogate the local priest (Scott Ganyo, a regular collaborator of Bilinski’s). The occult angle brings to mind “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist,” where matters of the spirit also play a key role. That’s not bad horror cinema to pull from; it doesn’t quite reach those heights, but it definitely tells that type of story well.

Though there are considerable moments of gore and horror in the film, it would be more fitting to consider “Three Tears” and mystery and thriller. The drive of the film revolves around Dominic’s efforts to figure out the truth about what happened to Lexie, and how he uncovers those truths. He has a lot in common with Liam Neeson’s determined father in “Taken,” to an extent, but this is not a clean piece of Hollywood escapism. Bilinski’s film is brutal and closer to low-budget exploitation thriller when Dominic or the killer are doing their work, and in those moments, it hits a bullseye. As a dramatic work, there are a lot of moments where limitations in budget come through a little too much, but that doesn’t keep it from being a fun film to watch.

As for that ending scene, um, wow. I did not see that coming. Probably unnecessary, given all that had come before, in my opinion, but definitely a shock, which is saying something considering what came before.

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