Courtesy of Fantastic Fest

Werewolves have come to personify many things: transformation, unbridled rage, sexual desire, etc. This legendary supernatural creature has allowed us to explore what we keep under the surface, buried until it comes bursting out at the seams. However, sometimes the execution of these ideas channeled through the werewolf symbolism can be hit or miss. While not necessarily a miss in terms of using the werewolf as a metaphor of mental illness or the predatory nature of the music industry, BLOODTHIRSTY gets weighed down by its surface-level exploration of these themes.

BLOODTHIRSTY is directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me). The screenplay was written by Wendy Hill-Tout and Lowell. The film stars Lauren Beatty, Greg Bryk, Katharine King So, and Michael Ironside. In BLOODTHIRSTY, we mee indie pop star Grey (Lauren Beatty), who is struggling with the pressure of writing a banging sophomore album after the massive success of her debut. She is also struggling with hallucinations, with no clear medical cause. As such, her psychiatrist has prescribed her medications to try to get it all under control. Contacted by eccentric music producer Vaughn (Greg Bryk), Grey and her partner Charlie (Katharine King So) head to his secluded mansion and, upon arrival, it becomes clear that making the album was just a cover for far more concerning motives.

Starting off with an ominous opening credits sequence, the audience is introduced to Grey’s dilemma almost immediately. She’s struggling with hallucinations, imagining herself transforming into something. Right off the bat, it seems that the film aims to explore mental illness. The presence of Vaughn and his actions help support the struggles of mental illness; he is always poking, prodding, seducing Grey into taking actions that she has been pushing against her entire life. In this instance, the exploration seems strongest. Coupled with Grey’s dreams, the blurring of reality and fiction reads as successful. But, as BLOODTHIRSTY continues onward, the actual exploration process seems mixed. In fact, at times, it feels like a footnote rather than the thread we should be following. In that, I can’t say that the exploration was an overwhelming success.

Courtesy of Fantastic Fest

BLOODTHIRSTY also seems to explore the predatory and sacrificial nature of the music industry and the dog-eat-dog behavior that we hear about behind-the-scenes. Grey sacrifices everything to create this album: her mental health, her partner, and – arguably – her producer as she tries to maintain hold of her success. However, none of this could have happened without Vaughn’s interference. He’s the one who grooms and cultivates this aggressive behavior in her, even going so far as to deliver a speech on predators versus prey. Whether or not intentionally designed to explore this topic, it was fascinating to watch as Grey undergoes a behavioral transformation as well. Ending on a bittersweet note, BLOODTHIRSTY could very well be more of a horror story of what monstrous behaviors are cultivated along the way to achieving our dreams in a cutthroat industry.

One of the strengths of the film is in the direction and most of the cast’s performances. Lauren Beatty and Greg Bryk are clear standouts, with the cultivation of the chemistry between them really shining. For fans of the Canadian werewolf series “Bitten”, we all know that Greg Bryk is no stranger to the werewolf. However, he takes on a more deliciously morally compromised turn as Vaughn. As a contrast, we see Lauren Beatty’s Grey transform from an anxious, vulnerable woman to an assertive, powerful force to be reckoned with. By the time we reach the end of the journey for Grey, Beatty’s face captures the multi-layered depth of everything that has happened up to that point. The weakest link in the cast for me, though, was Katharine King So. Sometimes the delivery of her lines fell flat and her presence felt dimmer compared to the others. But, with that magnetism between Beatty and Bryk, it is hard to shine past that.

Circling back to my note on direction, Amelia Moses handles the material well. Shot mostly in one location, the audience gets to see every nook and cranny of the house. As the scenes change, so does the feeling of each room. Bouncing back between warmth and cold, alternating between safety and danger, Moses’ handling of the setting comes off well. Utilizing different camera angles and pops of bright red to signify the raw power Grey is embracing, Moses combines these techniques with Beatty’s performance to take us along Grey’s journey of self-discovery and transformation.

Courtesy of Fantastic Fest

As the story of BLOODTHIRSTY focuses on an indie-pop singer, there is an infusion of lyricism and vocal performance that stands out. With songs written by Lowell, there’s a simplicity to the songs that works well. There’s also a powerful emotional connection interwoven within the lyrics, which helps elevate the songs beyond its simplicity. I would honestly be surprised if people weren’t interested in buying the titular song after they are done watching the movie as it is quite good.

Overall, BLOODTHIRSTY is a mixed bag. The storyline can be a bit convoluted at times as it tries to figure out what exactly it is trying to explore. However, the direction provided by Amelia Moses, the strength of the songs featured in the script, and the performances delivered by Lauren Beatty and Greg Bryk help to give some heft to the script.

BLOODTHIRSTY had its World Premiere at the Celebration of Fantastic Fest on October 1, 2020.

Sarah Musnicky
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