'Fake Blood': Film Review
Indie horror filmmaker Rob Grant frets over his responsibility for big-screen violence in an is-it/isn't-it documentary.
Two Canadians with a sideline in schlock-horror movies ponder the ethics of peddling cinematic violence in Fake Blood, a low-fi film claiming to be a documentary account of that self-reflection. If what they show us all actually happened, Fake Blood would be something of a minor doc discovery, in which truth takes a surprising and on-topic turn. But if director Rob Grant and collaborator Mike Kovac actually had this adventure, they'd surely be crowing about it, not having their publicists refuse to confirm or deny the truth of the pic's third-act events. Judged as a fiction built on a kernel of fact, Fake Blood hardly distinguishes itself from the glut of mock-docs; it may be a refreshing break for the filmmakers, but viewers might prefer another zombie flick.
Grant (who earns his living as an editor) has actually directed fiction films starring longtime friend Kovac. In 2012, their Mon Ami followed two pals who accidentally kill a woman, then must go to the hardware store where they work to get tools to disassemble her body.
They thought their super-gory films were all in good fun until an email from a fan shook them up: Someone had seen Mon Ami and taken issue with its verisimilitude; he walked through a hardware store shooting cellphone video, showing Grant the tools that would be more effective in chopping up a corpse.
Most veterans of the horror-fest circuit would probably laugh off such a missive. But as Fake Blood tells it, the video inspired a crisis of introspection. Citing incidents of real-world violence where killers claimed to be inspired by Freddy Krueger, Chucky of Child's Play or Heath Ledger's Joker, the two men started wondering if they might be contributing to real crimes.
Somewhat puzzlingly, they decide not to start interviewing psychiatrists and crime experts, but to explore what violence feels like in the real world. They go to a gun range; they put on pads and let martial artists knock them around. Having never been in fights themselves, they question friends who have. Talking to a film-world acquaintance who recently worked on a crime flick, they hear about a production consultant who knew more than a law-abiding citizen possibly could.
Arranging after some difficulty to interview "John," whose face is blurred and voice is disguised per their agreement, the men hear first-hand stories of killings. John claims to have seen, not committed, the crimes, and Grant offers re-enactments that follow his accounts. But some independent research reveals that John is a much scarier man than he claimed to be, and in his thirst to connect vicariously with real murders, Grant starts making bad decisions.
Though they both start off on the same page, seemingly earnest about the project even if they're pretty bad at it, Grant and Kovac diverge around this point; the film makes much of this falling-out, with Kovac worried their investigation will hurt John's old victims and maybe the filmmakers themselves. But theirs is a pretty low-drama conflict in terms of scripted narratives, and the threats and revelations still to come are similarly ungainly.
On two or three occasions (most obviously, a reference to The Blair Witch Project), a sliver of dialogue or an editing choice offers what could be a hint that the movie's non-fiction claims are bogus. But being coy in this way works best with a more gripping story — we're hardly watching Fargo here — and, in any event, the era of fake news makes this kind of thing considerably less fun than it was in the late 1990s.
Production company: 775 Media Corp
Distributor: Level Film
Director-editor: Rob Grant
Screenwriters: Rob Grant, Mike Kovac, Michael Peterson
Producers: Rob Grant, Kurtis David Harder, Mike Kovac, Michael Peterson
Director of photography: Sarah Thomas Moffat
Composer: Michelle Osis