flesh and blood review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas is a holiday that demands noteworthy horror treatment, but to this day, Thanksgiving boasts abysmal genre cred. Eli Roth’s “GIVE ME NOW” Grindhouse faux-trailer? Killer puppet schlocker ThanksKilling? Home Sweet Home (1981)? For this critic, Into The Dark’s most intriguing entry was always going to be Patrick Lussier’s Flesh & Blood based purely on Turkey Day implications. Does it deliver? The most significant “F” word here is “Family,” yet much like October’s The Body, browned-and-buttered holiday aesthetics simmer in a rather bland broth.

Diana Silvers stars as Kimberly, an agoraphobic teen shaken by her mother’s murder. Father Henry (Dermot Mulroney) strives to help his daughter find herself once again, and therapist Dr. Saunders (Tembi Locke) visits regularly. As Thanksgiving approaches, Henry and Kimberly plan a full-course meal in their mother and wife’s honor, but a troubling discovery threatens holiday bonding. While watching television, Kimberly notices the necklace around her neck – a birthday gift from dad – matches that of a missing girl shown via newscast. Her paranoia mounts, snooping intensifies, and with no other explanation, Kimberly latches onto a devastating conclusion: Henry is a serial killer.

Flesh & Blood piles on lies and challenges mental health as Henry promotes the idea that Kimberly’s medication is to blame for “delusional” accusations. Agoraphobia imprisons Kimberly, meaning tension depends on conversations between parent and child. Henry cares deeply for his little girl, doesn’t want to “ruin” their family, but broken-record pleading for Kimberly to “let things go” bakes Louis Ackerman’s script into standard “one-location” quarantine placation. Kimberly panics, attempts to escape her “maniac” father, passes out shortly after setting foot outside, wakes up locked away again. Rinse and repeat.

Agoraphobic genre situations come with implied restraints, but better films have navigated these invisible boundaries. Shrew’s Nest (available on Shudder) weaves abuse, kidnapping, and a gruesome climax into an apartment complex mousetrap. Intruders (2015) flips home invasion norms on their heads. Flesh & Blood develops half the richness of these aforementioned similars, content with unspooling true-crime sleuthing dashed by a Housebound twist (minus the comedy). Henry’s ongoing home renovations are more than a recall device (“Mom’s to-do list” reminiscing) – they provide escape routes and passageways for Kimberly to use in tight pinches.

Dermot Mulroney’s role as maybe-killer-pops Henry doesn’t reach as far into suburban nightmare territory as hoped. Madness befalls the monster – Mulroney whistling chipper rhythms while drilling into Kimberly’s door as she phones 9-1-1 – but repetitive fallbacks onto remarks about never hurting his daughter or loving her too much drag the same bastardized bloodline beats. Henry’s intensity bursts when demoing walls with a sledgehammer or fuming over police interactions – brazen, but brief. Lussier’s vision otherwise lacks depth, which translates to a more mundane “killer.” Nothing like, say, Dylan McDermott’s sociopath-in-question as a Christian scoutmaster who possibly also murders in IFC Midnight’s upcoming The Clovehitch Killer.

Chills, “horrors,” and gasps all stem from Silvers’ ability to convey entrapment along with Lussier’s representation of affliction. Indoors, Kimberly shares experiences in an Agoraphobia Support Association chatroom with other suffering users. Outdoors, she’s hit with crippling anxiety attack symptoms. Cinematography sees through Kimberly’s eyes as sight blurs, neighborhood sounds like car engines spike deafening chaos, and her legs all but give out. Kimberly physically cannot escape fate even if Henry turns out to be the next Ted Bundy, which does benefit specific sequences. A girl begging for answers, unable to react appropriately even when under patrol officer instructions.

For Patrick Lussier – director of My Bloody Valentine (2009) and Drive Angry – Flesh & Blood evokes a stifled, more straightforward household blueprint. Squeamish slasher deaths traded for familial cat-and-mouse chasing, hellborn Nic Cage swapped with handyman Dermot Mulroney. Lussier works on a smaller scale that even at 80ish minutes wears itself thin. Less a mystery and more a delaying of the inevitable. Thematic hints of broken families and hiding in plain sight register softly, while Mulroney embodies a rather one-dimensional slasher who’s granted only a handful of memorable lines (“You don’t deserve pie,” after locking Kimberly away in her room post-accusation). All this to say we’re still in need of a fully-dressed Thanksgiving horror classic given the dried-out and underseasoned presentation of Flesh & Blood.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10

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About the Author

Matt is an NYC internet scribe who spends his post-work hours geeking about cinema instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don't feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).