Is it possible to make a werewolf movie without an actual Werewolf? Bloodthirsty, the latest psychological horror film from Amelia Moses, doesn’t exactly set out to answer this question, but comes a heck of a lot closer than your average monster movie. As the title suggests, the characters share more than a passing fascination with blood, yet short shrift is paid to the process of actually acquiring it. Almost all the violence takes place off camera, and the actual word “werewolf” is saved until the very end, just a few short minutes after we manage to see one for the first time. Though lycanthropes are the backbone of the movie, they are more of a MacGuffin than any actual focus. Instead, the film revolves around the relationship between a young singer and a Svengali-like producer with a backstory reminiscent of Phil Spector if he was charming enough to get away with murder.
Lauren Beatty stars as Grey, an up and coming young pop singer, whose life is replete with all the classic trappings of freshly discovered celebrity. She endures photo shoots with increasingly ridiculous outfits, is mobbed by a single journalist who leaves her alone as soon as he’s told to, and suffers from hallucinations about turning into an animal. You know, typical pop star stuff. After the success of her debut album, Grey searches for a new producer to help record the follow up. She settles on Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk), a reclusive but highly reputable genius behind the boards. Trouble is, Vaughn may or may not have murdered his last protégé, a woman named Greta who was found shot to death in the very same home/studio that he invites Grey to visit for a little jam session. Grey’s girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) raises some objections that are dutifully ignore, and the couple head out for a working vacation in the snowy countryside.
Upon their arrival, Vaughn proves to be a friendly and welcoming host with only lightly creepy, werewolf-ish tendencies. Sure, he always speaks with a flat, emotionless tone, wears a fur-collared coat, can run incredibly fast without getting winded, and occasionally brings alleged murder weapons out during dinner. But he gives his guest free rein of his palacial estate, and invites them to help themselves to any food or drinks they could possibly desire – with plenty of vegan options on hand to suit Grey’s dietary restrictions. However, the more time they spend in his house, the more controlling Vaughn becomes. He is controlling in the studio, asks to spend dinner alone with Grey while Charlie eats in her room, and upon learning of the hallucinations, he even insists on throwing out her medication. Though Charlie’s concern continues to grow, so does Grey’s fascination with this man who promises her the kind of fame and fortune that she has so far only tasted.
Co-written by real-life Canadian singer Lowell, who also provides several original songs for the movie, it is no surprise that a great deal of the movie focuses on music and the recording process. Grey expresses her feelings through her songs, and though they can be a bit superficial at times – eye-roll-worthy slant rhymes like “I need to check on my vitals, I’m feeling psycho” and poignantly adolescent ruminations like “God is a fascist and he holds all the cards” are not just used, but focused on in emotionally intense moments – the overall vibe of the music is one of professional production that provides a chilling ambiance throughout. The same could be said for the movie as a whole. Though Grey’s character may coast a bit on presumed pop star clichés, Beatty’s performance gives enough depth to make the slow descent into animal madness a compelling one. As she murders woodland creatures with her bare hands, slurps up platefuls of meat juice, and occasionally finds time for a bit of piano noodling, Grey’s struggle with sanity manages to be just real enough – and just weird enough – to mostly makes up for the almost complete absence of any actual werewolf sightings.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 Stars
Bloodthirsty is sure to disappoint horror buffs out for a good old fashioned gore-fest. Most of the blood found in the film comes from animals, and a good portion of that comes from dinner plates. However, those looking for a more meditative werewolf experience will be satisfied by the beautiful visuals and largely strong performances. While it may not be your traditional monster movie, it’s the perfect horror film for anyone with a weak stomach and plenty of patience.