The first time I heard about Blood Daughter, I was instantly intrigued. It’s a vampire film set in a sort of reimagined Dracula universe, and anybody who’s familiar with my tastes knows that’s right up my alley. Not only are vampires my favorite human-sized monsters, but Dracula in particular is my favorite horror novel of all time. So naturally, this sounded like something I would really enjoy, and I was excited to check it out.
Blood Daughter was written, produced, and directed by Bryan Enk, and it stars Alexandria Johnson and Jeff Miller. It’s a decades-later sequel/“what if?” companion piece to Enk’s first two films, Bryan Enk’s Dracula and Dracula Returns, which he made about 30 years ago when he was a college student, but somewhat surprisingly, it’s not actually about Dracula. Instead, it centers around Dracula’s daughter Abby, the titular Blood Daughter, who’s imprisoned in a tower and who feeds on young men and women brought to her by a sort of vampiric cult.
When you first start watching Blood Daughter, the narrative can be a bit confusing. It takes a pretty long time to get to the main storyline, so it’s not entirely clear what’s happening, at least initially. However, you realize soon enough that the film is kind of circling around its main story instead of showing it directly, and once you understand that, everything falls into place. This part of the movie focuses on the surrounding village that’s under Abby’s dark influence, not on Abby herself, and it lets us see how various people in that village are affected by the vampiric goings-on around them.
Then, at about the 45-minute mark, we finally hone in on our central character, and the narrative becomes tighter and more compact. However, even then, Blood Daughter is still far from straightforward. The plot feels like an eerie combination of linear and circular, so even though there’s a definite progression toward a climax and resolution, there’s also a good deal of repetition.
Most notably, certain lines of dialogue pop up multiple times throughout the film, and that makes you feel almost like you’re watching the same events play out over and over again (even though you’re really not). Admittedly, that might sound a bit boring on paper, but when you see it in the movie, it actually works quite well, and it makes for a pretty unique viewing experience.
Before I move on to the ending, I want to let you know that Blood Daughter isn’t particularly scary or gory. Sure, there’s some blood here and there, but for the most part, this movie is more interested in telling its story than scaring you or grossing you out. In fact, I thought it felt more like a fairy tale than a straight-up horror film, so don’t go into it hoping for chills and thrills every few minutes.
Getting back to the narrative, let’s talk a bit about the ending. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but I will say that I thought it was the exact right way to wrap this story up. It’s uplifting and heartwarming without being sappy, and it left me with a smile on my face as the credits began to roll.
Those are my thoughts on the story Blood Daughter tells, but when we turn to the way this film tells that story, my feelings are a lot more mixed. On the one hand, the cinematography in this movie is excellent. It’s mostly in color, but it also utilizes black and white in some pretty cool ways, and it features a number of shots that are framed really beautifully.
And while we’re on the subject of visuals, I have to explain something that a lot of viewers might find jarring and even a bit baffling. This movie includes a number of flashbacks, and the picture quality during these scenes is terrible. They look completely out of place, so normally, I would say that including them was a big misstep.
But in this case, there’s actually a really good reason why they look so bad. They’re clips from Bryan Enk’s previous Dracula films, the ones he made 30 years ago as a college student, and they were shot on VHS. So yes, they look really out of place in Blood Daughter, but given where they come from, I think the poor picture quality is totally forgivable.
However, there’s another aspect of this movie that I couldn’t forgive: the acting. While some of it is decent enough, most of it is really bad. It’s super distracting, and it kept pulling me out of the story, which is a real shame. As I said, I enjoyed the story Blood Daughter tells, but the poor performances kept me from genuinely buying into what I was seeing on screen and fully appreciating it.
It’s a huge problem throughout the movie’s entire runtime, so at the end of the day, I’m pretty ambivalent about Blood Daughter. On the one hand, it showcases a whole bunch of talent behind the camera, but on the other hand, the performers in front of the camera don’t bring this story to life the way it deserves. Instead, they bring the film down quite a bit, so they keep it from reaching its full potential.
Blood Daughter doesn’t currently have a release date, but if you’re interested in checking it out, keep your eyes peeled for more news about it.