“Blood Relatives” isn’t great, but it’s far from deserving a stake.
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I’ve always been a fan of the filmmaking triumvirate of Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Noah Segan. Gordon-Levitt and Segan have appeared in each of Johnson’s movies in some way, shape or form ever since his directorial debut “Brick.” Gordon-Levitt took his first stab at directing with 2013’s “Don Jon.” Now it’s Segan’s turn with the Shudder Original Movie “Blood Relatives.” (He previously directed the segment “M.I.S.T.E.R.” from the horror anthology “Scare Package.”) I didn’t find Segan’s debut nearly as accomplished as Johnson’s or Gordon-Levitt’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its charms and merits.
Segan stars Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire who still looks like he’s 35. Francis has spent the better part of his lengthy life tooling around the American countryside in an American muscle car. He’s alone and he likes it that way. He feeds when he wants and generally tries to make sure his prey has it coming.
Francis’ solitude is interrupted by the arrival of Jane (Victoria Moroles), a teenage girl who’s tracked him down claiming to be his daughter. Much like Wesley Snipes’ Blade, Jane is half-human half-vamp. She ages and can go out in the daylight, but also has a bloodlust and fangs.
Now it’s up for the two to decide whether they can make a go of it as a family.
The elevator pitch for “Blood Relatives” would likely sell it as Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon” by way of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark.” I don’t dig it as much as either of those movies, but that’s also kind of a high bar. It took me a while to fall in line with the film’s pacing (somewhat glacial to start) and storytelling (very vignette-y), but once I did I was handsomely rewarded. I’ll admit I watched the 88-minute movie in two halves over two sittings. The two halves are totally tonally dissimilar from one another and I greatly preferred the warmer second to the cooler first.
Segan and Moroles (who also served as associate producer) have solid chemistry. I especially enjoyed her performance. Segan’s script sometimes cringingly lapses into vanity project territory. (Francis is often described by other characters as being handsome – and Segan’s a decent enough-looking dude – but he ain’t some sort of matinee idol.) Segan and Moroles get strong support from the likes of comedian Doug Benson as an anti-Semite auto parts storekeeper, Tracie Thoms (“Death Proof”) as Jane’s high school principal and producer Josh Ruben (director of “Scare Me” and “Werewolves Within”) as an asylum inmate to whom Francis has ties.
“Blood Relatives” isn’t great, but it’s far from deserving a stake. Color me curious for whatever Segan directs next.