Bloodshot Heart REVIEW – Stylish, But Not Bloody Enough | Chattanooga 2021

Parish Malfitano's debut film is a remarkably stylish one, but doesn't fully commit to its genre influences.

Bloodshot Heart
Bloodshot Heart

Bloodshot Heart, the feature directorial debut of Parish Malfitano, follows Hans (Richard James Allen), a mentally unstable driving instructor who lives with his mother, and his growing obsession with the new tenant living in the room that he and his mother rent out. That’s about all that can be said about the story without giving away plot details that are better experienced first hand, but the film isn’t one that’s focused on plot.

Its focus is on feel, style, and atmosphere. All of which are so heavily inspired by 70s Italian exploitation films, particularly gialli, that it makes the fact that Bloodshot Heart doesn’t just fully commit to being a neo-giallo like Knife+Heart a bit disappointing. Instead, it focuses on inviting us into the headspace of Hans as he grows more and more detached from reality, and offers us a glimpse into his world of blackmail and both potential and confirmed incest (again, this movie is heavily inspired by exploitation films).

While many gialli examine trauma’s ability to reform someone’s reality, Bloodshot Heart feels more like a part of the current wave of trauma obsessed films and TV shows given its focus on Hans’ point of view and experience of the world.

And this focus makes perfect sense for the plot, which slowly builds to a chaotic and violent finale as Hans loses his grip on reality, his desire and obsession becoming his only motivation. The film invites us into Hans’s mind from the opening titles which play over grainy home video footage of a day at the beach, and we’re clued into his shifting relationship with reality early on with a minorly canted angle after the young woman Matilda (Emily David) arrives.

The film further distances Hans and the audience from recognizable reality with beautiful (if somewhat aggressive) neon lighting that seems to ebb and flow in different scenes throughout the film, as well as an unclear setting in time. It feels as if the film is a period piece, but cell phones are just as common as land lines, and beyond the larger question of what year it is, there are smaller confusions of time like Hans’ mother Catherine (Dina Panozzo) decorating a Christmas tree in the middle of August.

There’s no question that Malfitano has a talent for creating a unique and subtly unnerving atmosphere, something that’s highlighted by the film’s few but surprisingly uproarious moments of humor that add to the absurdism. And the performances throughout are fantastic, particularly Allen who makes Hans a fascinating (if not entirely sympathetic) character to spend time with.

But the friction between the genre influences on the style and lack of significant influence on the story, at least in the major area of including a slasher component that sprinkles stylized scenes of violence throughout the film, creates an ultimately disappointing experience. While the film’s finale certainly delivers on the violence, in a surprisingly fun and Fargo-esque sequence of increasingly brutal scenes, it feels overdue by that point and more like a necessity than something exciting.

Malfitano is certainly destined to make a number of wonderfully stylish films going forward, I just hope that they live up to their influences more than Bloodshot Heart.

Review screener provided.

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Bloodshot Heart
Bloodshot Heart is a beautifully stylish debut from Parish Malfitano, but the film doesn’t quite live up to its 70s influences.