BLOOD ON HER NAME
Starring: Bethany Anne Lind, Will Patton, Elisabeth Röhm, Jared Ivers, Jimmy Gonzales
Writers: Don M. Thompson, Matthew Pope
Director: Mathew Pope
“Some things can’t be undone.”
Life can be a smooth and peaceful ride across a placid pond, the surface occasionally rippled by small waves emanating from minor disturbances, leaving the passengers safe in their crafts. But life can also have unpredictable storms that sweep across the water so quickly that the boat is in danger of capsizing. For Leigh and Richard, the main characters of Blood on Her Name (2020), decisions made during in-the-heat-of-the-moment conflicts create such a storm with vast waves that threaten to swamp their vessels and drive them under the surface.
Blood on Her Name is an intense, rural-noir thriller with Hitchcockian overtones that takes viewers on a voyage into the dark and turbulent lives of the Tiller family. Opening on a battered and bloody Leigh Tiller (Bethany Anne Lind from Ozark, Stranger Things) pondering what to do with the dead body of Daniel Franklin. Its steadily spreading pool of blood on the floor of her garage, the action seldom lets up to allow the characters time to collect themselves and recover. As the film moves forward, each decision Leigh creates more bloody pools and more danger. In her few moments of pause, Leigh is irresistibly drawn into her memories and the origin of the family secrets she has carried most of her life.
Leigh quickly becomes disoriented, trapped in a storm of guilt and indecision that roils the surface of her pond. Her plan to dispose of the body in a lake is interrupted when she intercepts a phone call from Franklin’s son, leaving her overwhelmed with guilt. She abandons the plan, deciding to leave the body where it will be found to give his family closure. This action puts her and all that she was trying to protect at greater risk. Her estranged father, Richard (Will Patton from Halloween 2018, The Good Wife), becomes an unlikely and unwanted ally.
Writer-director Matthew Pope and co-writer Don M. Thompson borrow from masters of suspense like Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino to heighten the tension. Much like Barry Foster’s Mr. Rusk from Hitchock’s 1973 Frenzy — who has to take a detour with a fresh corpse to recover his monogrammed tie pin — Leigh is forced to go on a frantic search for a missing piece of very personal jewelry. The climax takes place on a stormy night when Leigh and Richard face off against Dani (Elisabeth Röhm from Jane the Virgin, American Hustle, and the upcoming Fair and Balanced) and the dead man’s girlfriend, in a Reservoir Dogs–style shootout when truths are revealed, and bullets start to fly.
Director Pope scarcely leaves the audience little chance to breath during the 83-minute runtime. Blood on Her Name starts right in the middle of the action and goes forwards and backwards at the same time, ingeniously telling both stories at once. The deeper Leigh gets into trouble in the present, the deeper she goes into the past to revisit the origins of the course she has been sailing on.
The cast gives subtle but powerful performances. Lind and Patton are excellent as father and daughter, playing their characters’ reactions close to the vest until all the truths are revealed. They find themselves doing terrible things to prove they are good people, adding a layer of hubris that enriches the storytelling. Elisabeth Röhm is excellent as Dani. She adroitly swings between rage and despair in a truly explosive performance as she is torn between wanting retribution for Franklin’s death and protecting her child.
The cinematography is crisp and clear. The night shots are free of murkiness, a choice I wish more directors followed. This allows Pope and Thompson to make excellent use of Georgia’s impoverished, rural locations. Double-wide trailers and cinder-block buildings dot the landscape, practically oozing with sweat in the stifling humidity. All of this heightens the sense of hopeless despair, further intruding into Leigh’s life as she finds herself making more and more dangerous decisions.
Overall, Blood on Her Name is an intense voyage across turbulent waters with a shocking and well-earned finale that left this reviewer checking his craft for life vests.
Blood on Her Name opens nationwide in theaters and on VOD February 28th. Check out the trailer here.