Movie Review: PAINKILLERS (2018)

I’ve been a diehard horror fanatic since I was a little girl. With over two decades of worship under my belt, I’ve often been asked that question every genre fan doesn’t quite know how to answer – Why horror? To those on the outside looking in, we may appear slightly unsettling. I mean, who takes pleasure in watching things that scare you on a regular basis? Truth be told, I’ve often pondered this myself, and the closest to an actual understanding came somewhat recently.

Horror films are largely metaphorical. I find that seldom elsewhere will you find films facing the most gruelling elements of reality – Things including murder, unexplainable happenings, natural disasters, you name it. Though obvious on the surface, the actual issues on display are hidden a little deeper. Grief, loss, pain, suffering… The true antagonists of our very real lives.

On the surface, PAINKILLERS appears as a new take on the over-saturated vampire sub-genre. This is what I had assumed going in, and was surprised to find a harrowing tale centralizing on the devastating burden guilt casts upon those who fall victim to carrying it.

With bloodshed amidst mesmerizing Argento-esque technicolour lighting in less than two minutes of the film’s inception, I had an understanding of what lay before me. Or so I had thought. Establishing much of the backstory in less than ten minutes, the audience familiarizes themselves with the relationship dynamics of John (Adam Huss) and his son, Brian (Tate Birchmore). Perfectly paced, it felt as though the moment I felt my heart warm to the genuine closeness on-screen, the emotional rug had been swept from under my feet. An accident at the hands of John caused him to lose his son, igniting a heightened level of guilt I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

You may be wondering how this ties into the lore of vampires, and that is why this movie stood out so much for me. Following the death of his boy, John develops an unexplainable pain causing him to tremble uncontrollably at all times. With medical tests providing fruitless results, health anxieties are left unanswered until he happens upon the peculiar relief after consuming human blood.

As a child, I was Dracula obsessed. As you may conclude from this, I’ve seen more than a fair share of vampire movies in my time. Feasting upon crimson plasma is the standard, of course – That is what vampires do! However, in this case it becomes known that the strange condition John experiences is extremely rare for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Upon this discovering, I experienced a level of sanguine elation I haven’t felt since first viewing Let The Right One In.

I’ve dipped a little more into the plot points here than I usually prefer, however, I will say that there are many more layers in PAINKILLERS waiting to be discovered. A common theme played upon is the multidimensional principle of morality – How we act in accordance with negative factors in our lives, and the decisions to be made in the wake of such things.

Forgive the pun, but PAINKILLERS brought fresh blood to an otherwise dry sub-genre. It weaved in so many unexpected ways, and I could not have been more pleased by the experience. If it serves as any sort of indication of what is to come, 2019 will be a fantastic year for horror.

PAINKILLERS is now available on VOD and Digital HD.

Breanna Whipple
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