I gave up on the Academy Awards in 2010. You had an occult-Nazi-zombie-vampire movie directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Dominic Purcell, Michael Fassbender and Henry Cavill. It received zero Oscar nominations, not even for the Best Zombie Horse category.
Let that sink in for a moment. If it doesn’t fill you with righteous indignation, you are probably a person who shaves kittens and chews band-aids. The truth hurts, doesn’t it? I hope you hear the pitiful meows of your victims whenever you close your eyes and your mouth gets glued shut from all of the band-aid adhesive leaking from your flabby, earthworm lips.
Meanwhile, the rest of us refined and enlightened folk will look at Blood Creek…
Up the Blood Creek
Blood Creek is the story of a German immigrant who comes to America, raises animals from the dead and gets persecuted by rednecks for his faith. Timeless tale, really. All he wanted to do was develop a third eye from the Nordic gods and rule the world, but bigots be bigots.
Fassbender plays this German fellow. Blood Creek was one of Fassbender’s pre-fame roles. He is little used but effective when being quietly menacing (not so effective when strutting around in makeup and a black leather trench coat). Fassbender needs to be in more horror movies, preferably period ones. He has a Peter Cushing-quality that must be exploited.
Likewise, Blood Creek is pre-fame Cavill. Cavill plays a good old boy who spends his days working 15-hour shifts, taking his nephews tricker-treating and being lambasted by a wheelchair-bound father who treats him like DC Films treats him. Cavill looks like a kid in Blood Creek. He still has a straight hairline and had not yet hit the vitamins.
Purcell plays Cavill’s brother, who starts the movie missing for two years and suddenly shows up in Cavill’s trailer, sporting long hair, a beard and a penchant for vengeance. He wants Cavill to grab guns and come with him, immediately, no questions asked. Blood Creek was peak-fame Purcell. He had already done Blade: Trinity and was coming off Prison Break.
Caught in the middle of this trio is a German family played by a smattering of character actors and a pre-fame Shea Wigham, who just wants to go home. This simple wish is not so easy to fulfill, however, due to all of the Nazi-ing, zombie-ing and vampire-ing.
Unlike a lot of low-budget horror movies, Blood Creek does not waste time trying to overcome its weaknesses by lame attempts at gravatas. It knows that if it can’t be good, it can at least be fast. After the opening, the movie hits the ground running and maintains momentum at a lean 90 minutes.
Blood Creek is not a great film. It only reaches good by standing on its tippy-toes and stretching. This is probably due to it being directed by a slumming Joel Schumacher. Slumming is maybe the wrong word, however. Schumacher’s career was essentially over after Batman and Robin. He had a few reflexive last gasps with 8mm, Tigerland and Phone Booth. Blood Creek was one of his final films and probably about the best he could do at that point.
Schumacher gives Blood Creek a unique tone. It starts off as a dust-bowl movie, morphs into a German expressionist film and settles into a modern horror western. These were deliberate choices on the part of Schumacher. Likewise, it was his choice to keep the action moving. Once the brothers arrive at the farm, the movie basically plays out in real-time.
This pace is necessary because it doesn’t give the viewer time to think. The “rules” of the film blur by to hide their haphazardness and flexibility for whatever loopholes the heroes require. If I had to sum up the “rules,” the best I could do is something like this…
“If the villain doesn’t get blood, then the blood will blood the blood. Also, bone vest.”
If Batman and Robin is Schumacher at his most garish, Blood Creek is the other end of the spectrum. It is stripped of time and money. The crew went out to the middle of Romania, built a farm site, brought along handheld cameras and hoped they got everything needed in about a two-week timeframe.
The cast did a lot of their own stunts. Fassbender rode horses. Purcell threw himself off the second floor of a barn. When Schumacher forbid Purcell from doing that, Purcell went to the second unit director and did it when Schumacher was distracted by something else.
If the Blood Creek don’t rise
A great cast and Schumacher are helped out by a story that transcends being merely serviceable with a great hook, even if it is woefully underserved. Occult Nazi stuff is fertile ground. I used it with my Nazi werewolf novel, DogSS of War. Himmler was A-1 nuts on the subject, and his Wewelsberg castle was a monument to his madness. Himmler and company even encouraged good Nazi couples to copulate on the graves of Nordic heroes, so their spirits could inhabit the babies.
David Kajganich wrote Blood Creek. He also penned The Invasion, The Suspiria remake, The Terror and Bones and All, so he is not without talent.
Another notable thing is the villain has stages. Good monsters go through a reveal process. The best-done progression is in Predator. First, you hear the Predator. Then you see his victims. Next, you see through the Predator’s POV. Then you see the Predator’s hand in its own POV, followed by seeing it in camouflage mode. Next, you see it with its helmet on. Finally, you see it with its helmet off.
The villain in Blood Creek is nowhere near that level, but, hey, at least they tried.
Ingmar Bergman said film begins with the human face. Don’t call me pretentious for mentioning Bergman. Schumacher used that quote when talking about making Blood Creek. He said having great actors with great faces helped make the movie work. He is spot on with that assessment. Cavill and Purcell do a lot of heavy lifting. If Schumacher had filmed the entire movie in the expressionist style he used in the opening, they would have looked even better. As it stands, they form a likable duo, and you want to see them victorious.
One thing I enjoyed about Blood Creek was that it didn’t fall into the trap of thinking a downer ending is what makes a true horror movie. The heroes actually prevail, and a sequel is set up. A lot of folks want to see Cavill play Superman again. I want to see him hunt another occult-Nazi-zombie-vampire!