“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was one of the first wrestlers to make the jump to movies, trading a small screen ring for movies like Hell Comes to Frogtown and They Live. These films are solid entertainment from the heyday of horror and action films, featuring feats of stunt work not often matched since. Well, until now. Here For Blood, starring the Resident Evil movies’ Shawn Roberts, is not short on entertainment, physical acting, and choreographed fight scenes. The film acts as a conduit to the gory, funny, ‘80s genre films that served as the scapegoat for the Video Nasties and Satanic Panic eras, with its tongue-in-cheek satire that riffs on the uproar by fighting off cultists with cleavers, axes, and gallons upon gallons of blood.
Roberts stars as Tom O’Bannon, the only character in the film with a memorable last name. It may serve as an homage to Dan O’Bannon, the writer behind many beloved ‘70s and ‘80s features, including Alien, Dead & Buried, Total Recall, and Return of the Living Dead. Moments of the film certainly feel inspired by the latter, particularly when Tom discovers a skull with Dee Snider’s voice that continually beckons him to “Feed Me!”
In Here for Blood, Tom is a recognizable wrestler playing any gigs he can get, suffering at the hands of greedy promoters who pay him too little. When his girlfriend, Phoebe (Joelle Farrow), finds a conflict between babysitting for a wealthy couple and studying for a college exam, she asks Tom to step up and take the babysitting gig for her.
Reluctantly accepting the job after a well-written ribbing about male babysitters that continues into Tom’s arrival at the home of Barb (Wishmaster 4’s Tara Spencer-Nairn) and Gill (Chucky’s Michael Therriault), he meets Grace (The Boys’ Maya Misaljevic) who’s completely aloof to Tom’s presence, so long as he doesn’t upset her toy and video game projects. Not long after Grace’s parents leave, the house is targeted by mask-wearing invaders, leaving Tom as her only protection against people wishing to abduct and harm her. The whole ordeal becomes even more frightening as the gang of masked men gain supernatural abilities, too.
On the thematic end, at the heart of Here for Blood is a subtle story of class and morality. Arriving at the massive lot where Gill, Barb, and Grace call home provides an eerie ominousness coupled with the location’s single peak and color design that is downright creepy. As the events begin to unfold in Barb and Gill’s home, a picture of wealth above necessity is crafted through a plotline I’m unable to talk about without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, it’s a classic good vs. evil story as the cult attempts to gain immortality through sacrifice while Tom diligently attempts to complete his babysitting duties by keeping Grace alive through these supernatural events.
Following in the beats of Ti West’s slow-roll classic The House of the Devil, Here for Blood further mixes the over-the-top action and gore of Violent Night with Tom O’Bannon portraying the eminence of Jack Burton in the situation. Tom is just a reasonable guy who’s experiencing some very unreasonable things, after all. Roberts is exemplary as the good-natured meathead and perhaps the first male babysitter to be stalked in a horror feature (Halloween Ends’ Cody was never stalked). Of course, this schtick isn’t without its inspirations. When it comes to musclebound men looking after kids in the movies, Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Bautista have all had their moments, but those films didn’t feature body mutilation, decapitation, and zombies like Here for Blood.
Director Daniel Turres and writer James Roberts imbue Here for Blood with throwback qualities while keeping the film grounded in the present. Unlike many films that try this, Here for Blood embraces the silliness of male machismo through comedic bits and cheesy one-liners ranging from the discrepancy in male babysitter horror to Die Hard inspired final word bits that sometimes amount only to the word, “Chop!” The writing is sharp, in tune with its subject, and presents the director with enough fun between scenes to keep the audience engaged on a roller-coaster trip of blood-sloshing mayhem.
Objectionably, the film could use a few cuts to help ease Here for Blood’s solid two-hour run time. While it builds tension by going back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys, it isn’t always necessary and stretches the movie out a little between action bits. Also, the cold open at the beginning and a subsequent phone call to the killer in the early setup lead us to believe there is only a single killer, creating a surprise for the viewer when one maniac turns out to be a cult of many masked men. None of this undermines the film as a whole. Even the pacing stays up enough not to suffer any lagging, though I do believe the movie could benefit from a few additional cuts.
Overall, Here for Blood is destined to become an October favorite. It’s got a rock n’ roll heart at its center, and it’s made adeptly from a terrific script. This is a party movie, meant to be laughed at and shocked along to with friends. Just be sure not to get so into it that you suplex them through a table.
Here for Blood held its English premiere at FrightFest on Friday, August 25. It is currently touring the festival circuit.