Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 20th, 2011
“I guess every town has their own boogeyman stories… There’s always a moral, mainly don’t pick on the nerdy kids, don’t have pre-marital sex, don’t do drugs.”
In the case of Blood Oath the local stories involve a family called the Krupps. Apparently they had trouble having a baby, so they sought supernatural help. A witch instructed them to place a drop of each of their blood in a vial and bury it at the base of an ancient tree. Suddenly the Krupps are pregnant with twin girls. Of course, every deal with evil requires a sacrifice, and when the Krupps refuse to give one of their two children, evil takes its own course. A horrible car crash kills the Krupps and disfigures one of the twin girls. The other is fine and eventually found and adopted. The story goes that the disfigured twin dragged off the bodies of her parents to an abandoned cabin in the woods where she still lives with the corpses. Anyone who has discovered the cabin is never heard from again.
So, of course, a group of teens go into the woods to party and have some teen sex. And, of course, after hearing the story they decide to seek out the cabin and the legend. And, of course, it’s going to end badly for the group of teens. That’s the premise of the throwback low budget film Blood Oath written by newcomer David Meier Smith and directed by the young David Buchert.
Buchert does a lot of very good things here that make his film stand out quite a bit above its budget. He found two modern scream queens to agree to do cameo deaths in the film. An early set-up scene finds Tiffany Shepis as Janet who is parking in the woods with a guy who was just sent packing by Beverly (Vaughan) who will turn up as one of the four teens looking for the abandoned cabin. They get to be the film’s first bloody kills. Shepis got her start with the Troma project Tromeo And Juliet so it’s good to see her helping out with the cause. Tina Krause shows up halfway through the film as a conservationist student photographer who’s nuts about squirrels. Between the two of them these girls have done almost 200 films. They both make quick and bloody exists, but the inclusion was wonderful marketing strategy.
Buchert also makes great use of his woodland settings and an extremely creepy house location to build pretty thick atmosphere in the movie. The camera work was a good cut above traditional low-budget fare, and you find yourself truly getting sucked into this thing. I’m not going to say the kills are all that imaginative, and the gore effects aren’t going to win any awards, but they make up for it in volumes of blood and guts. They used super soakers to completely blast the actors in blood. The editor did a bang-up job making the cheap effects work. The cuts linger just long enough for you to get your fix but seem to know just when to cut away before the limitations become obvious and turn the fright into funny. Too often amateur productions hurt their limited effects by lingering far too long on the imperfections. There’s an attitude of “I paid good money for this I’m going to milk it for as long as I can”. Buchert and his crew don’t fall to that temptation, and the film is far better for it. There is also quite a clever opening credit sequence.
One of the best things you’ll like about Blood Oath is the various subtle homage moments to some classic slasher films of the past. It isn’t hard to see where these guys got their inspiration. I’d rather not ruin the experience by revealing them here. Instead, I’ll advise you keep it in mind and see how many you can spot. It might make for an interesting drinking game. There’s enough there to get you pretty smashed before it’s all over.
The acting is a mixed bag here. Most of the cast is a bit better than average for a low-budget film. There is a notable exception. Unfortunately, Jamie Reynolds as Kevin carries a ton of the exposition. He’s about the worst actor I’ve seen, and I’ve seen some bad acting. He talks like he’s drunk or half asleep, and his voice is enough to put the worst insomnia case to sleep. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Natalie Hart as Lisa. She’s got quite good chops and is by far the most natural of the bunch. Of course, there are the extra girls included for their rather obvious physical attributes. It’s to be expected in this kind of a movie, and it’s all in good fun.
There are a couple of small flaws in an otherwise superior low-budget movie. The flashbacks to the story of the Krupps is a bit oddly shot and slows everything down to a particularly uncomfortable crawl. The story itself was plenty to set the facts down for us, and this part of the movie lives down to the low-budget expectations of cheap amateur theater. The killer’s “costume” is also pretty lame. It’s actually a clever idea. He puts together patches of clothes from his victims, but in execution it looks rather silly.
Buchert keeps the running time under 80 minutes, so it all goes by at a good clip. If you are in the mood for some old-school slasher fun and you’re willing and able to make the necessary concessions to the production, you might find yourself having a rather bloody good time with this one.
Blood Oath is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Buchert makes the most of his short cash flow, but the production isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to blow you away with its look. There’s plenty of atmosphere to be found, but the print has some serious compression issues. Lighting is also a problem, which hurts the movie because of poor black levels on the transfer. The color is rather nice, and there are some moments of good detail to be found here. I suspect the transfer is more to blame for the issues than the production itself. There was too much evidence of attention to detail to fault the production with most of these limitations.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also a bit ahead of the budget. Dialog is clear with the exception of some of Reynolds’ delivery. There’s obvious sound design thought here, and the audio presentation combines these elements with a fairly good score to give you everything you need to enjoy the movie.
There is an Audio Commentary with Buchert. He’s a bit tentative and obviously a little uncomfortable. He does deliver plenty of informative tidbits to make it an interesting listen. You’ll hear a lot of “This right here…”
Behind The Scenes: (38:20) This is better than I expected. It’s a ton of raw footage with plenty of cast and crew voice-over, explaining what was going on. A lot of secrets are revealed with all of the “how did they do that” footage you could ask for.
Special F/X: (6:17) More of the same with the focus on the f/x which are also covered in the first piece.
Storyboard Slide Show
Tromatic Extras: These are the typical shorts and fun tidbits that Troma includes on most of their DVD releases, including a film intro that is really a joke.
Young filmmakers have a lot of tools at their disposal these days. Too many of them make films that appear to be more about what neat little tricks they’ve learned than delivering a nice amusing movie. This is not one of those efforts. In fact, there’s a little rib taken at the “lost footage” films that are too trendy these days both in low and high-budget films. As the group prepares to head off for the search, one suggests they bring a camera so that if something goes wrong it will be the last documented record of their ordeal. Another pours water on the idea by explaining he didn’t want some greedy company to make a fortune exploiting their deaths. The movie is a lot like that beer commercial: More taste. Less filling. It has a lot of stuff you want and less of what you don’t. For example: “I don’t think we have to worry about any real killer mutant squirrels”.