Xavier inherits an old house from his grand-uncle and decides to move his family from the comforts of the city to the small Portuguese countryside for a change of scenery. Once there many strange things begin to occur that may or may not be due to a supernatural presence in the house. His youngest son, Ricardo begins to see dead people. His daughter Sofia works hard to take care of her newborn baby while hiding a dark secret. His wife meets a young priest who reveals many of the town’s dark secrets. Finally, when his oldest son Rui arrives at the house, things take a turn for the worse.
The title of the movie – Bad Blood (Coisa Ruim) – refers to one of the many names that are given to the Devil in Portugal. The Portuguese Catholics believe that just pronouncing the word “Devil” will bring a curse. In this definition lies the theme of the 2006 Portugal movie Bad Blood. The movie calls itself a horror film, but as everyone from the directors to the writer to the stars would tell you, it is not as much a horrific film as it is a disturbing one.
The movie opened the Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal in competition and took many people by surprise. With very little in the way of traditional jump scares and nothing in the way of the more recent flavor of gore, it left many people unsatisfied at that genre festival. The movie would eventually find its audience and would finally walk away with both the Golden Globes Best Film and Best Actor awards in Portugal.
The movie is a slow burn that demands much of its audience as they follow the characters as they move along the story until the very low key conclusion. Hidden inside this ghost story is a story of the tragedy of a family that falls apart at the seams. Leading the family is Xavier (Adriano Luz), the father who drags his family to a new life, out of the city and into the rural areas that are almost entirely ruled by superstition and strict Catholicism. Luz is almost perfect in his role as the father who slowly loses control of the situation that he has forced his family into. One of the movies that Bad Blood owes credit to is The Shining, and Luz brings a strong presence to a character that owes a little to the character of Jack Torrance. He brings life to a father who wants to do what he believes is best for his family, regardless of their feelings towards the change.
Surrounding Luz is a cast of characters played almost to perfection by the actors that portrayed them. Jose Pinto and Joao Pedro Vaz star as priests that bear a strong resemblance to The Exorcist, a movie that Bad Blood owes much to. Pinto plays Father Vincente, the older priest who is teaching the younger Father Cruz the expectations of the superstitious rural townspeople. The movie shows an exorcism early in the running time that is less The Exorcist and more a disturbing exercise in fear, with no proof whatsoever that the girl being exorcised was ever possessed to begin with. Father Vincente patiently explains to the young priest that it is not important whether or not the girl was possessed, what is important is helping the people believe the girl is no longer possessed.
Whether there really is a possession or not, it is the fears and superstitions of a rural town that moves the story. The town is cut off from technologically advanced societies and is almost entirely indentured to the Catholic rituals of penance. When an actual possession does occur, the newcomers do not believe it possible and it is those doubts and fears that lead to the film’s tragic conclusion. The movie is held together through the fear of this family as well as the doubts of the young priest who is called in to help them. One small, minor character helps to bring this entire situation home. Dulce (Elisa Lisboa) was hired by the family to take care of the house when they learned that she also cared for the grand-uncle who left the home to them. Dulce showcases the strong Catholic beliefs as she spends much of the movie in fear, praying for the family. In what must have been a minor role in the script, Dulce provides a strong link to the superstitions and the Catholic Church and represents the society that the family is thrust into.
Three young actors round out the main cast, as the three children who are forced to make the change. The most powerful actor turned out to be the one with the least experience. Sara Carinhas plays the daughter Sofia, as she is trying to care for a child of her own. It is never explained who the father is, and only in a fight with her older brother Rui, does the script mention there is a dark secret. This would be the one failing of the movie, as it opens up some interesting plot points and then just drops them, never to be heard from again. I understand the thought process that it is sometimes better to not know everything, but if you don’t follow the movie very closely, it will lead to confusion and misunderstandings. On my first viewing I had a mistaken opinion of where the movie was leading and then on the second watch realized that I had misinterpreted that storyline completely. For someone who only watches this movie one time, I fear it would lead to many mistaken assumptions that would hurt the quality of the movie.
Aesthetically, the movie is beautiful. Victor Estevao, the cinematographer, photographed some of the most beautiful scenes I have seen in a movie in a long time. The co-directors of the movie, Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra found some of the best locations and chose some of the more interesting shots that just made the movie glow. This movie is beautiful to look at and with the score composed by Jorge C, it is a wonder to behold. The movie’s look owes a lot to The Exorcist, in both the lighting and the location shots. There is a scene that takes place in the town that is almost lifted straight out of the classic horror movie. Much of the moving and tracking shots also owe much to the work of Stanley Kubrick with The Shining. Everything looks a little familiar but is done with a slight touch that shows the filmmaker’s unique style as well.
The movie has been compared to The Village by M. Night Shyamalan, but don’t let that make you shy away. I don’t see much of a similarity between the two, with the exception of a small community that is consumed in an almost ritualistic fear of the unknown. It is much more similar to The Exorcist, but don’t go into this movie expecting horror. The plot is a slow burn and the story is a tightly knit tale of family and sacrifice. It’s well worth your time.
Bad Blood is offered in Anamorphic Widescreen. I don’t know how it looked in theaters but it is beautiful on this DVD. Every color just pops off the screen and it is an amazing visual treat. The sound is offered in Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 DTS and Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital. It sounds great. The music is well done and original and everything sounds crisp and clear. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish.
The DVD’s cover is really nice looking and atmospheric, but really doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, except to show that there might be ghosts.
There is a thirty-minute making of which details everything from the writing of the script to the eventual premiere of the movie. While at times, it seems it is just a promotional piece with everyone patting each other on the back, there are tidbits strung throughout from everyone involved that explains much of the thinking behind the storyline. It is a nice little feature. The only other extras are trailers – both of this movie as well as other Tartan releases.