Dominic Merrick (Bill Gobin) is a man with a dark past returning to the small town he's long since left behind to solve the mysterious death of Lexie (Sidney Shripka, Bloody Hooker Bang Bang: A Love Story), a niece whose death doesn't seem to be particularly troublesome for the town's corrupt sheriff (Jim Dougherty) or, for that matter, much of anyone else in the town. With his troubled daughter, Kendall (Kayla Crance, East of Nowhere), unwillingly along for the journey and a reunion with his estranged sister, Dom begins digging deep enough to uncover some of his own dark secrets and secrets the town would prefer be left unrevealed including a mysterious cult, a supernatural curse, a masked killer, a growing body count with pretty much everyone aiming to be either a suspect or a victim. Maybe both.
Written and directed by Evansville, Indiana native Jakob Bilinski, Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh is one of your more ambitious low-budget indies, a nearly 2 1/2 hour thriller that crosses genres, dances across boundaries within those genres then makes up a few rules of its own. Perhaps most easily described as giallo set within the framework of a heartland horror/thriller, Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh is at its best in the film's most intense and riveting moments including an opening sequence that is suspenseful even though we know what is inevitably going to happen. In this scene, Sidney Shripka rocks it in a pretty horrifying way and sets the tone for a film weaves in a multitude of characters and threads while remaining true to its core.
Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh deservedly picked up the award for Best Cinematography at the 2015 MayDay Film Festival and kudos must be given to both Bilinski and D.P. Bonnell for their top notch lensing work. If you've been following The Independent Critic recently then you know I've been on a bit of a giallo binge as U.K.-based Arrow Video has been bringing a number of giallo titles to Blu-ray. So, it's fun watching Bilinski weave his way toward creating what is essentially a love letter to giallo while recognizing the story's need to exist among other genres as well.
The film suffers a wee bit in its quieter moments, though this may very well be an intentional artistic choice as giallo characters, in general, tend to be a bit heightened in the ways that they relate to one another. It feels a bit awkward, at times, but never comes close to derailing the film's heightened drama and emotional intensity.
Bill Gobin is at his best when the film intensifies, as well, at times reminding me of George C. Scott's quiet yet seething intensity as he searched for his daughter in the remarkable Hardcore, while Kayla Crance gets a little bit better with each project she tackles. Jim Dougherty, who could easily be described as one of the Midwest's most steadily working actors, is appropriately smarmy and horrifying and wearing an awesomely atypical set of facial hair as the corrupt and even more corrupt sheriff. Among the more supporting players, Angela Steele turns in an emotionally honest performance while Scott Ganyo shines as Father Gabriel.
Of course, it should be noted that Bilinski's ability to find solid players while maintaining a strong loyalty to Midwestern performers pays off quite nicely and, for the most part, the entire ensemble cast is clearly on the same page with Bilinski and helps to turn the film into a gripping and entertaining film that accomplishes quite a bit despite the challenges of working within the framework of a lower budget. Christopher John De Mory's original music is absolutely stellar, while Larissa Ross's costuming and production design help to give the film a look that feels perfectly in sync with Bilinski's vision.
Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh is that rare film that took 2 1/2 hours to watch yet felt worth the investment. So often, a nearly 2 1/2 hour film feels like a filmmaker that can't get enough of themselves. In this case, it feels like Bilinski knew exactly what he wanted from the film and he took his time making it all happen. For fans of indie cinema and certainly fans of culturally influenced giallo, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that. Check it out when it arrives on DVD/VOD from indie distributor Unearthed Films.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic