The transformation of the self is a common theme that feels all the more real as we imagine ourselves letting loose and becoming that which we repress. For Amelia Moses’ Bloodthirsty, the repressed self is the werewolf that is stuffed inside an artist, an artist with an insatiable hunger for respected art.
Grey (Lauren Beatty) is a pop musician coming up on the creation of her sophomore album. With the pressure of her second release landing atop her, she shops for producers to help create the next big thing. She is excited when Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk), a notorious producer, wants to work with her, and quickly brushes off any hesitations in favour of great art. Grey’s girlfriend, Charlie (Katharine King So), expresses reservations when she comes across sinister details about Vaughn’s past, but the two ultimately head to his remote home to immerse Grey in the music creation process. As Vaughn drags beautiful music out of Grey, Charlie becomes more and more concerned about her and her mental health, knowing that Grey has been struggling with dark thoughts and hallucinations. As Vaughn dig his claws deeper into Grey, her primal urges start to surface, testing her relationship, her will, and her sense of self.
Written by Wendy Hill-Tout and her daughter, Lowell, and directed by Amelia Moses, Bloodthirsty showcases the beautiful work that can be done with limited resources. The story leans into supernatural elements without getting so caught up in them that it becomes lost in the film’s constraints. Where Moses really stands above the rest is in her ability to use simple shots and cuts instead of leaning on special effects. It smells like the type of small budget technique that could start a trend like the shakey cam in The Evil Dead or the removal of frames in Saw. Moses shoots the all important “transformation” in simple ways, made better by the work of Beatty’s physicality that moves well past mere suggestion and reads like a well crafted moment. It’s inspiring and will make you want to grab a camera and shoot your epic.
It seems negative to say that the parts of this film are greater than the whole, but it’s only as a means of describing how there are stellar small pieces that rise above the so-so narrative. The songs, which were written by Lowell, are standout. Movies about music make a tall order when they commit to creating “popular music” outside real world popular music. It’s another huge task in and of itself that the movie manages to pull off. The titular track, Bloodthirsty, is an earworm and I’ll admit to be humming it aloud in this moment. Lowell, a musician, has worked with acts like Demi Lovato, Madison Beer, Hailee Steinfeld, so it’s both impressive and unsurprising that the music feels like it could stand on its own.
Hill-Tout was inspired by Lowell’s stories of art as martyrdom which is a theme woven throughout the narrative. It takes off in interesting ways, testing how audiences and producers demand so much from artists, sometimes to the artists’ detriment. Grey is struggling before she even begins, and Charlie can only protect her so much from her will to work on her craft, and Vaughn’s insistence that her pain will deliver stronger work.
Where this narrative gets lost is in the relationships the film creates and sidelines. Grey’s relationship with Charlie is very quickly pushed out of frame, and Charlie is reduced to a sparring partner for Vaughn. As the film switches focus to Grey and Vaughn’s relationship, the revelations are almost unnecessary in a way that they become distractions from an otherwise interesting story about intangible connections.
Bloodthirsty gets a but too caught up in the twist to let its subtleties breathe, but it’s a well crafted scary story about a hungry artist who chooses the version of herself she believes she needs to be.