Brian Barnes has made a decision: it’s time to get clean and sober. Retreating to the cabin he owned with his ex-wife on the lower slopes of the majestic White Deer Mountain, the separation from the noise of the city and its pressures will do him good, but the cabin is a shell of memories with its immaculate floral wallpaper, cupboards and wardrobes empty save for a single crumpled yellow dress on the floor.
Awaiting the arrival of his friend Anna who will stay with him through the process the temptation of the remnants of his stash is too much for Brian and he succumbs, unfortunately tripping just as he has an encounter with the belligerent sheriff with the melting face. Waking from his druggy doze at dusk he hears a noise; assuming it is Anna, what he sees is something which could have walked out of the nightmare from which he has just awoken.
Written by Clint Carney who also plays Brian, Dry Blood is a rustic and pared down American Psycho, the protagonist and the audience equally unsure of what is real and what is fantasy, what is happening in the present and what is memory, only that in one way or another something bad is going to happen if it has not happened already.
Almost entirely a two-and-a-half hander, Carney, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus‘ Jaymie Valentine as Anna and director Kelton Jones’ as the unnamed sheriff whose persistent presence and intrusions grates on Brian’s temper, it is apparent that the majority of Carney and Valentine’s significant credits are in areas other than acting.
The characters created solely for these scenes with no life to them beyond the process of detox and the only chemistry present the pharmaceuticals which Brian is voraciously consuming, Valentine is stupendously bad, her unnatural delivery of lines peculiarly stilted as though she had learned them phonetically from a different language though apparently sufficient time and effort was available to ensure she had perfect hair in every scene.
With no mention of how his lifestyle is funded, whether he is between jobs or on extended leave yet is still able to afford a holiday home in the mountains, the immediate impression is that Brian is at least moderately wealthy and is accustomed to being indulged as only the wealthy can be, from his drug habits to his demands of Anna to his tantrums when she does not immediately capitulate.
His performance broader but less vital, Jones at least manages to make the film look good although his work is made easier by the stunning scenery, the apparent tranquility of the woods a contrast to the harsh city where even the sunlight is painful to Brian, though even in retreat he is instead tortured by symptoms of synaesthesia and pareidolia.
Seeing skulls in the coffee grounds in the garbage, losing certainty of what is real and what is not, his hallucinations dating to before he ever took drugs, Brian should be a more interesting and sympathetic person than he is, and it begs the question of how much better Dry Blood could have been had Carney stepped back once the script was written to allow someone else to play the lead.