Back in June of 2010 I reviewed a little indie film titled DENIZEN, written and directed by JA Steel. DENIZEN was a fun little creature flick made on a micro budget that managed to deliver a good pace, interesting characters, and a fun story. Then news started coming out that Steel was fast at work on her next film, BLOOD FARE, which boasted having a slightly bigger budget and a well known actor attached to it (Gil Gerard). Ever since it’s first press release, I had Steel promise she’d keep me in the loop about BLOOD FARE’s development and progress. I’ve posted quite a few articles on BLOOD FARE and now I’m happy to report that Steel sent me over a copy of the film that’s about 90% completed (she told me there’s still some sound work to complete). But now that Steel has more experience under her belt, do we see some growth in BLOOD FARE?
BLOOD FARE begins during the Civil War as we watch what is essentially the beginning of one man’s curse. After being killed, soldier Henry Trout (Scotty Meek) is cursed to walk the earth after being unable to pay his fare to the afterworld. Henry must either cough up the coins or collect 200 souls. Yes folks, this is as the byline suggests, “A Civil War ghost story with a modern twist.” I’ve been quite vocal about my disdain for the modern day ghost story — they usually leave me bored and unimpressed. I’m sick of pretty much every single ghost story taking place in a haunted house setting or having the set up of a bunch of ‘ghost hunting’ retards filming an episode for their basic cable show, thereby turning the film into a found footage ghost story. Yawn. Steel, who wrote the story with Christian K. Koch, abandons the typical ghost setting and plops this story right out in the open forest in the daylight. Risky move, but it pays off. BLOOD FARE gives the viewer a fresh feeling ghost story that doesn’t rely on cheap scares, but which relies on a solid story and strong acting.
After the opening which sets up the cursed Henry Trout, we then meet our main characters in the modern day. Tyler (Brandi Lynn Anderson), a dissertation student who is doing her thesis on a particular early Civil War battle that is considered only a minor skirmish in the history books, but one she believes played a bigger role in the war. Her mentor, Professor Meade (Gil Gerard), sets it up so she can do research on the very land where the battle took place (now part of the State Park system). Tyler drags along her underachieving brother Chad (Adrian West), who needs the extra credit to pass the class. Chad turns around and invites his buddy Ash (Brenden Whitney) who brings along his vapid sister Summer (Savannah Ostler). Tyler’s girlfriend Kayla (Bridget McManus) also joins in the fun. There’s also a handful of park rangers who all have varying degrees of importance to the plot, but I won’t go into detail so as not to give away any spoilers.
It doesn’t take long before our cast comes face to face with Henry Trout and learn first hand that the rumors of this particular section of the park being haunted are very true. Right away you’ll notice how sharp and ‘good looking’ the production is. DENIZEN was definitely a more … let’s call it a “rustic looking” production. BLOOD FARE has solid production values and whatever the budget Steel had to work with, she took full advantage of it and got every penny of it onto the screen. The acting here is strong for an indie film and the only actor that stood out as not being very good was the actress who played Summer (Savannah Ostler). With more experience I think she’ll blossom into a decent actress, but here she was shrilly and came across as overacting all of her lines. Tyler, on the other hand, did a fantastic job. She played the kind of female role in horror films I love to see. She was independent, smart, and didn’t need a man to save her. She’s the strong female role we need more of in the genre!!
Watching the credits of BLOOD FARE, you see a lot of names repeated. This is the kind of indie film where some of the crew also pulls double duty as various cast members, and vice versa. For example; the actor Scotty Meek (Henry Trout in the film) is also the production designer. I love seeing these kinds of films. There’s always a certain ‘feel’ to these indie films and I think it’s because the people involved have a lot more invested in the overall production. They don’t just come to the set, do their lines, and then go to their trailer. Meek for example, helps design the look of the film and then actually gets to be in the film. This adds a whole other dimension to the film because Meek knows exactly the kind of look Steel is going for and can therefore adjust his acting to deliver the best result for the overall film.
Sorry to get a little analytical here, but BLOOD FARE really delivers. In the final act, Steel and Koch take a big risk by throwing in a twist that I didn’t see coming. Don’t worry’ I’m not going into the twist at all, but in lesser skilled hands this twist would’ve fallen flat on it’s face. But going back and watching BLOOD FARE a second time, I caught all the details in the plot that Steel subtly gives us that beautifully leads up to the twist. Steel’s a focused filmmaker, and her gamble paid off. The ending gives us a nice little punch and adds a whole other dimension to the story.
BLOOD FARE was well worth the wait. With solid acting, great production values, and well-executed special effects (supervised by Chris Hanson, who worked on LORD OF ILLUSIONS, PHANTASM IV, MEN IN BLACK 1&2), BLOOD FARE ends up becoming more than just a good indie horror film. BLOOD FARE is a good movie, period!! This is also one of the best ghost stories I’ve seen in a very long time. Steel is the kind of feminine voice the genre needs and I for one can’t wait to see what she delivers next. BLOOD FARE is in the final stages of post-production and I’ll keep you updated when it becomes available. Definitely check this one out!!
Director: JA Steel (& co-writer with Christian K. Koch)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer