Title: Blood Car
Director: Alex Orr
Starring: Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Rowlett
Released: 23rd July 2012
In the very near future, no-one can afford to drive any more. Fuel prices are at an astronomical high and parking lots are graveyards for abandoned cars. But vegan schoolteacher Archie is trying to invent an alternative engine that runs on wheat-grass, and when he accidentally cut himself he discovers a new fuel… human blood. But government agents are spying on Archie, and he is forced into ever more shocking and extreme behaviour to keep his blood car on the road...
Although made back in 2007 and picking up many plaudits on the film festival circuit, this (literally) bloody comedy finally gained UK cinema release in February this year. And it's only now hitting the DVD shelves, so at last cult film fans can see what all the rave reviews are about.
Now from the synopsis many of you may well be imagining some species of post-apocalypse movie with a spiky Mad Max-style vampire car. However the key words here are 'very near future' – the world of Blood Car is pretty exactly like our own except that fuel is so expensive only the very rich can afford to drive. And although there is indeed much claret spilled as Archie (Michael Brune) tries to keep his car on the road and shady government spooks attempt to take possession of the titular vehicle, we're not on a road trip into the usual horror comedy territory.
For while there is the copious amount of red stuff spilled, numerous gags in very poor taste and some very black humour throughout, Blood Car has more of an indie comedy feel. Despite the over the top nature of the story line, it has a low key feel mostly and much of the humour is subtle and understated - for example, there is is a nice running joke centring around what is written on the blackboard in Archie's classroom. But also Blood Car isn't just raising laughs by throwing the entrails around a la Bad Taste, Evil Dead II or Dead Snow, it's taking a knife to contemporary society - this isn't the usual splatstick, this is more of a splattery satire, a splatire if you will.
Of course the key question here is - is it funny? After all the art-nerd tropes of indie comedy - for example, the alternative culture quirky characters and mostly classical music soundtrack - and exaggerated gore antics aren't the most natural of bedfellows. Plus a lot of the gags are black comedy, a variety of humour that is notorious for often being so dark or so understated as to not be funny at all. In many respects it's a strange mix, as unlikely to work as an engine fuelled by blood and wheat-grass, but work it does! There are a lot of laughs to be had, coming from all areas of the comedy spectrum: from wry witty little lines to real laugh out loud moments.
However despite having a somewhat compact running time of just about 75 minutes, the movie does lose a little momentum in the midsection. Partly this is due to the fact that there aren't quite enough twists and turns in the basic plot-line, but mainly I think the film sags when the two ladies in Archie's life take a backseat. Anna Chlumsky - who you'll either know from Armando Iannucci's Veep or may remember as a cute moppet in Uncle Buck and My Girl - as the delightfully dippy Lorraine who has a crush on Archie, pretty much steals every scene she's in; Katie Rowlett, as the slutty maneater Denise, devours the lion's share of sharp lines. However in contrast to the finely delivered and obviously having a ball performances from these fine leading ladies, Mike Brune's Archie comes off looking a little under-powered in the comedy performance department.
Now obviously Archie as a nerdy yoghurt-weaving teacher is a somewhat awkward and under-confident character requiring a low key performance, and it's only fitting that he's outshone when sharing the screen with the two contrasting women of the story. However when the action is purely focused on Archie, I couldn't help feeling he needed a bit more oomph.
However fortunately, despite the movie seeming be running low on gas in the middle, Blood Car does put the pedal to the metal for the finale, serving up a marvellously cheeky and memorably over the top ending, rounding off the film on a high point of deliciously ridiculous laughs. Its collision of indie quirks and splatire isn't going to work for everyone, but Blood Car has future cult classic written all the way through it. The easily offended should probably steer clear, but everyone else, particular lovers of the bad taste humour, hitch a ride with Blood Car!