'Blood On Her Name' Review: A Nasty, Homestyle Tale Of Justice And Revenge [Fantasia Film Festival 2019]

Matthew Pope's Blood On Her Name ranks among Americana thrillers such as Blue Ruin, I Don't Belong In This World Anymore, Small Crimes, and other tobacco-stained justice flicks. A modest look into how one decision can change your life forever; sins paid in flesh and blood. Characters all blend into a complicated existence between sympathy and wrongdoing, as Pope holds complication over easily definable boundaries between "good" and "evil." In a time when online mob justice demands black-and-white rulings on human affairs, Blood On Her Name reminds us of the sprawling grey area that defines our experience. Tension strung tight enough to slice through a crowd like the opening scene in Ghost Ship.Bethany Anne Lind stars as hard-luck Leigh Tiller, left by her lawbreaking husband to run their family mechanic shop alone. Son Ryan (Jared Ivers) lends help, a "juvenile delinquent" on parole after beating a bully blind. Already low on customers, Leigh's life is shattered to pieces after a junkie threatens harm post-closing. In the act of self-defense, Leigh bashes the attacker with a wrench and kills him. She panics, stashes the body, and doesn't notify badged authorities – headed by her gruff lawman father, Richard Tiller (Will Patton). Leigh's troubles start with a corpse, but complications arise in the form of nosy locals. Angry, vengeful types.Blood On Her Name is never as gruesome as Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier's crosshairs comparison point. Violence punctuates drama instead of sets a bloodsoaked tone. Some might consider Pope's backwoods caper a "mumblecore mystery" built on character designs over ass-kicking, meant with favorable connotation. We care for Leigh's predicament, but then questions arise when Leigh's situational allowances usher in blurry logic. A woman made to fend for herself, sacrificing for family, turned a "villain" in the flimsiest of circumstances. Pope's rumination on survival taps into helpless realities not asked for but enacted, bringing karmic weight in megatons. I *love* how answers don't appear, left for viewers to ponder.Judgment defines Blood On Her Name, as perceptions project how actors handle their character arcs. Ryan's record forever blemished by juvenile incarceration, as his parole officer refuses to see past a "troubled kid" stereotype no matter the reasoning (standing one's ground). Leigh's journey is a seesaw of good intentions and miserable decisions, left with no options – and the man she killed? His spouseless, fatherless family? Patton's countryman gunslinger embodies a necessary catalyst in terms of corruption with callous disregard, but it's Lind who impresses most. Characterized by a constant grimace, fighting tooth-and-nail, not a stranger to desperation. Both the victim and aggressor with such dispirited rage, stone-faced despite a fire engulfing her insides.The way Pope bloodies salt-of-the-Earth landscapes works minimalism into an efficiency. Trailer parks and empty automotive shops backdrop class warfare between equals. Folks trapped by rural boundaries, backs against the wall and paying a heavy price. Blood On Her Name is as much about a dead body as it is a busted American Dream. Pope remembers those forgotten under violent circumstances and does more than thrill through murderous designs that unravel into a tangled mess of vigilante intrigue. Experience is that of tragedy: familial, impoverished, self-anointed tragedy. It's a feeling that reverberates through Leigh's cold stares and raw panic, and a sharp translation of the fears many struggling citizens encounter daily.Blood On Her Name is like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun. If every chamber represents a choice to be made by Leigh, there's a bullet waiting. As ruthless intensity goes, I think you get the gist. Matthew Pope country-fries gutter luck, sizzles up a healthy portion of stand-off tension, and serves one nasty slice of homestyle revenge. Maybe too bleak for some, but sorry. Life isn't all rainbows and Skittles. Kudos to the filmmakers who don't shy away from the lows we're forced to stomach and those failed in the process. Damnation by location, never given a choice./Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10