Cannes Hidden Gem: Slow Burn Horror in Female Werewolf Tale 'Bloodthirsty'

Bloodthirsty Still 1 - Publicity -H 2020
Charles Hamilton

No jump scares or buckets of blood for Canadian director Amelia Moses as she builds a feeling of darkness and dread for her second sophomore feature.

Amelia Moses says she never aimed at big screen jump scares and buckets of blood with her female-driven body horror pic Bloodthirsty.

With her second feature, set to debut at Cannes's first-ever virtual film market, where 775 Media Corp is handling sales, the Canadian director instead blends a werewolf tale with slow-burn spookiness and dread to explore female anxieties. "I'm looking for something more visceral, that slowly gets under your skin and for me, as a horror fan and an audience member, those are the films that I enjoy more," Moses tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Bloodthirsty stars Lauren Beatty as Grey, a young singer whose anti-psychotic drugs don't put a stop to early dream sequences about being a wolf. That's before she's invited after the success of her first album to work with a notorious music producer, played by Greg Bryk, at his remote studio mansion in the woods.

The indie film, written by co-producer Wendy Hill-Tout and songwriter Lowell, replaces the actor in a furry suit with a more nuanced werewolf achieved mainly through prosthetics applied to Beatty's face as her character's unrelenting anxiety builds. "We have a hybrid, a mix of a human and a wolf. It's a bit more grotesque, a bit weirder, and we still get the emotion of the main character, even when she's a werewolf," Moses says of her work on the wolf transformation with Dave Trainor, a veteran make-up and prosthetics maker on TV series like Fargo and Wynonna Earp.

As Grey's emotionally-fraught musical collaboration deepens, the vegan singer starts to hallucinate she's a wolf with a growing hunger for meat and the hunt. Soon the record producer has Grey convinced her psychotic visions are a gift and a gateway to an esteemed fraternity of monsters.

And the film's iconic werewolf transformation scene — where Grey's wolf body bursts from her human body with muscle mass, bloodshot eyes and hair growth — sees the driven young singer discovering who she is, who her family really is and the price to be paid for becoming a great artist.

"I really like those tight, intimate shots where you're almost so close you don't quite know what you're seeing, and it becomes much more about the feeling and I really worked with Lauren (Beatty) to make sure we feel the actual physical pain of your body changing," Moses says of her shot composition for the monster transformation scenes.

Bloodthirsty is a character-driven drama like Moses' other body horror pics, including the 2017 short film Undress Me, where a nerdy college student undergoes a gruesome physical deterioration after a chance encounter at a frat party. And her debut feature, Bleed With Me, which also stars Beatty and will be released later this year after a world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, tells the story of a young woman in a winter cabin who believes incisions in her arms prove her best friend is stealing her blood.

"Hollywood likes a strong female lead. Yes, I'm all for that. But I always want to see women who are vulnerable or a bit fucked up, who are struggling too, because that's humanity," Moses explains. And main characters who are flawed or struggling with inner psychological turmoil are well suited to the horror genre, she adds. 

"A lot of films focus on a premise. For me personally, everything comes as an extension of the main character and an exploration of that character," Moses says. Bloodthirsty, which was shot in Edmonton, Alberta, also stars Michael Ironside and Katharine King So.

The Canadian movie is also produced by Michael Peterson, executive produced by David Bond and features music by Lowell.