The title sequence of BLOOD PUNCH proudly informed me that “You are watching BLOOD PUNCH.” It’s a useful reminder that I wish more films would give, as my brain can be a little slow and addled at the best of times. Having a slow brain is something that won’t help you when watching BLOOD PUNCH, since it concerns interlocking time-lines and a bizarre temporality that will make you scratch your head at least once or twice in befuddlement.
The story opens as drug cook Milton (Milo Cawthorne) attends CMA – no, not the Country Music Awards, but “crystal meth anonymous” – where he meets Skyler (Olivia Tennet). She convinces him to accompany her to a log cabin in the woods where she promises she and her boyfriend, Russell (Ari Boyland) will help him cook a batch of meth for a client that will make them all very rich.
BLOOD PUNCH is GROUNDHOG DAY mixed with “Breaking Bad” mixed with Quentin Tarantino (sans foot fetish). I don’t know about you, but that combination sounds absolutely amazing to me. That’s why I wish the film could have been better. Don’t get me wrong, BLOOD PUNCH is eager to please. There’s a genuine liveliness to the proceedings and unpredictability in the story which it achieves in spite of wearing influences on its sleeve.
The energy presented by the actors is natural and uncontrived, at least to begin with, and the comedic tone keeps things upbeat and fresh. Surprisingly, the cast is populated by Australians and New Zealanders, but the film was made in California. Everyone puts on a fairly convincing American accent, with only a few moments where the “g’day mates” and “eh bros” leak out accidentally and betray their true Antipodean identity.
I don’t know why director Madellaine Paxson decided to take the production across the Pacific and have her cast masquerade as Americans, but I can only imagine it was a necessary financial decision to secure funding. It’s a shame this couldn’t be made in the southern hemisphere, since the film industry down here needs as much of a kick in the pants as it can possibly get. Everyone that worked on BLOOD PUNCH is clearly talented, and we need them in NZ and Australia. America has enough talent without pilfering ours.
Unfortunately, the film falls down in its dialogue sequences. They run too long, dissolving the impact that the script may have had with more brevity. Ironically, the script for a film called BLOOD PUNCH could have been imbued with more “punch.” The characters pose and try to be cool. They smoke constantly, even though the actors grimace with distate and show pain with each unpleasant inhalation. The dialogue itself is desperately edgy, aiming for a Tarantino-esque, profanity-laden verbosity that never sounds right coming out of the actor’s mouths. They’re good, but Samuel L. Jackson they ain’t.
It ends up feeling like Tarantino made a film for kids. Ari Boyland – who’s playing a hardened, psychopathic criminal – looks more like a member of *NSYNC (maybe he should change his name to Ari BoyBAND, amirite?), and Olivia Tennet looks like she just stepped out of MEAN GIRLS. Milo Cawthorne appears kinda ragged, but distractingly reminded me of a mix between Paul Dano and the weird half-child, half-man from 1981’s BURIAL GROUND – you know, the guy whose cloth smelled like death? Everyone here is way too young and pretty to be involved in such shady shenanigans.
However, BLOOD PUNCH is impressive for its budget. It makes clever use of its limited location and tells a story that resists classification. There are a lot of questions left unanswered as the credits roll, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least it doesn’t spoonfeed its mysteries to you. But, the most confusing thing to me is why it was called BLOOD PUNCH. There’s plenty of blood, and I’m sure there were a couple of punches, but never did the two combine. And that my friends, is the biggest mystery of BLOOD PUNCH.
BLOOD PUNCH is now currently streaming on the AMC’s premium horror video service, Shudder