Until Paradise Slips Away: Our Review of ‘Nothing But The Blood’

Until Paradise Slips Away: Our Review of ‘Nothing But The Blood’

San Antonio based filmmaker Daniel Tucker’s second feature Nothing but the Blood is being sold along the tagline “Straw Dogs meets Red State,” the kind of mashup marketing that’s commonplace in a cinematic landscape that requires snappy, one sentence sales pitches. Respectfully, I might suggest that it’s not an entirely accurate statement. Invoking Kevin Smith’s religious fundamentalist horror film from the early 2010s is definitely an apt back half to that statement, but perhaps one of Sam Peckinpah’s more notorious features isn’t the best referent for a picture far more tightly-wound.

Personally, I’d claim that Tucker’s film falls more in line with the mumblegore movement of the early twenty-first century. There’s an almost Ti West-like quality to how slow Nothing but the Blood unravels in its movement to its grisly conclusion. Too much of this is focused on the deeply felt romance between two people affected by a local fanatical church to really match the aesthetic that “Bloody Sam,” craved.

Those two people are Jessica “Jess” Cutler (Rachel Hudson) a small-town journalist who finds herself covering a burgeoning fanatical church movement led by a fervent father (Les Best), and Thomas (Jordan O’Neal), a young parishioner who just so happens to be looking for a way out. Interrogating the new church—known as “Emeth” a Greek word meaning truth—isn’t exactly a selfless gesture on the part of Jess. We’re informed that her estrangement from her parents stems from an incident during her faith-based upbringing, wherein Jess staunchly believes the congregation was guilty by association following a pedophilia scandal.

It’s a reveal that carries thematic weight as Nothing but the Blood progresses. Tucker’s anger seems to be less aimed at faith itself, and more in-line with a stereotyped conception of organized religion as a backwards and outdated outlet for vitriolic hypocrisy. I’m in no position to evaluate the version of religion that Tucker forwards as being accurate or not, but I think that it is worth mentioning that this is very much built on whatever your worst conceptions of religious fundamentalism are.

In terms of creating tension, it works wonders. As Jess and Thomas drift deeper into love, it sets him up for a less than amicable divorce with Emeth. And by less than amicable, I mean an aggressive campaign of harassment. Jess and Thomas conceive a child they name Arcadia, which bluntly translates to as meaning an unspoiled paradise. As Emeth’s harassment campaign beings to affect Arcadia, the metaphor could not be more obvious.

I used Ti West earlier as a referent, because when Nothing but the Blood decides it’s time to go off, it really goes off. Most of the first two acts focuses on Jess, Thomas, and the encroaching threat posed by Emeth. The third drives us into a violent conclusion, that is nothing if not biblical. To tell the truth, I found it much less compelling than the blissful happiness of Jess and Thomas’ courtship. The implication that Tucker poses here is that connection be found despite trauma; that our salvation must involves ones we truly love, or it isn’t really salvation at all.

I find that idea far more interesting than the doling out of divine punishment, because said idea carries hope. But the go together because hope and the hopeless are intertwined. Life is cruel. All you can do is hold onto paradise as tightly as you can, until it slips away.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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