Ambitious but uneven, Blood Bound spins a mostly compelling yarn about consent in the guise of a supernatural horror film.
Blood Bound is a story about blood magic, creepy incestuous families, and human sacrifice. But more than anything, it’s a story about consent, and the horrifying sense of violation when that is taken away far surpasses that of the supernatural elements of the film.
When three teenagers attempt a home invasion, they discover to their horror that they’ve been lured there and are not, in fact, in control of the situation. The owners of the home have set a trap to get three unwitting victims — they are members of a family with powerful supernatural abilities and apparently close ties to the devil himself. (Their characterization throughout the film walks a thin line between off-putting and ridiculous, and frequently crosses said line.)
All three teenagers are bound to the family with blood magic, forcing them to submit to the will of their captors. For the female teen, Kerry (played by Eden Brolin, daughter of Josh), this control plays out in exactly the way you would imagine and is exactly as horrible, although thankfully not presented in a visually explicit manner. Lack of consent. Mental and physical rape. These are the overarching themes of Blood Bound.
There are even characters, like David, the youngest member of the supernatural family who becomes infatuated with Kerry and thinks that he is in a position of power, who are ultimately being unwittingly controlled. It only takes David propositioning Kerry and then casually admitting to her that he’s a little nervous because he hasn’t had sex with someone outside his family before to realize that he is hardly the master of his own destiny, that’s he’s been raised in a bafflingly abusive home environment and doesn’t even know it. His ability to make choices for himself has been taken away as much as any of the others, even though he has the illusion of liberty.
There are certainly weak elements of the film — some of the actors, particularly within the magical family, struggle to make the more stilted dialogue not come across as laughably cheesy. Overall, it suffers from a sense of ambivalence about what it wants to accomplish, which is a shame because it has some moments that hint at greater depth. Brolin, in particular, acquits herself well as she grapples with the consequences of what has been done to her and continually grasps against all odds for some semblance of agency.
The one aspect of Blood Bound that truly endeared itself to me was the romantic subplot, in which it seems to explore the kind of unhealthy relationship championed in Twilight and other supernatural films in that vein. Only here, rather than finding the abusive qualities of her attractive paramour charming and mysterious, Kerry is justifiably horrified. It takes the stereotypical YA relationship between a teen and the supernatural being who is for some reason attracted to her and shines a light on it, exposing the dark and twisted side of it in a way that feels intentional but not obvious.
On the whole, Blood Bound was a slightly puzzling experience that left me feeling both pleasantly surprised and disappointed at the same time. It seemed to be operating on a deeper level than many other films of its ilk, but its uneven execution prevented it from pushing through the glass ceiling of low budget supernatural horror into something that truly made a statement.