Blood Paradise, 2018.
Directed by Patrick von Barkenberg.
Starring Andréa Winter, Patrick von Barkenberg, Bauer, Christer Cavallius, Martina Novak, and Rolf Brunnström.
A pampered writer goes to a rural retreat for inspiration and falls foul of a few oddball characters.
There are already more fish-out-of-water horror movies than you can shake a rusty chainsaw at, and so if one were to write/direct one there would need to an angle, some sort of twist or idea to shake up the usual formula. Blood Paradise is the debut feature by writer/director/actor/set designer/tea boy (probably) Patrick von Barkenberg and approaches the familiar material of somebody poking around where they don’t belong with a healthy dose of classy eroticism and off-kilter humour.
That somebody poking around in question is Robin Richards (Andréa Winter), a wealthy novelist whose latest book was a bit of a flop and so, at the suggestion of her publisher, she goes off to a rural farm retreat in Sweden with the aim of recharging her batteries and getting her creative juices flowing once again. However, Robin is not a lady used to living off the land, taking cold showers under a makeshift shower unit made from a watering can, not having a phone signal and she is certainly not used to interacting with people like Hans (Christer Cavallius), the driver who picks her up from the station who also happens to be her number one fan, and retreat owner Farmer Rolf (Rolf Brunnström), who has some rather strange habits that draw Robin’s attention, such as shooting chickens with a crossbow, and whose wife is buried in one of his fields.
So far, so seen-it-all-before but Patrick von Barkenberg is not content with simply rehashing the raw visuals of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or the relentless violence of The Hills Have Eyes for his tale of city folk visiting the country, and as such Blood Paradise is packed full of stylistic flourishes that, if nothing else, show that he has an eye for framing a shot and setting up a scene. The cinematography in the film is gorgeous, from the sun-kissed beaches of Spain where Robin enjoys a drink whilst talking to her publicist on a boat to the green, vast expanses of Sweden, where not a lot happens on a daily basis by the looks of it.
The casting of actor/producer Andréa Winter proves to be a masterstroke as not only is she stunning to look at but she is extremely convincing as the high class writer suddenly thrown into a world into which she does not belong, and von Barkenberg – who also plays Robin’s boyfriend Teddy – makes good use of her in the films many nude scenes as he photographs her in various states of undress against the rural Swedish background to great artistic effect, giving the nudity a more stylish edge than the usual gratuitous exploitation.
But sexy naked ladies will only get you so far and that is where Blood Paradise begins to suffer as the already paper-thin plot is not given anywhere to go once you take away the obvious visual charms. There is a sub-plot with Hans and his jealous wife that is inserted for no real reason other than to make him more of a goofball character than he already is, and its relevance to where the film goes is tenuous at best and has no real impact. The inclusion of Teddy is also a mystery as he serves no purpose at all, unless it was just to give Patrick von Barkenberg some screen time, but you could erase him from the movie completely and it would make no difference to anything.
There is a streak of dark humour that runs through Blood Paradise that is very hit-and-miss, from the opening gag of an S&M sex act that doesn’t go according to plan that raises a smile but hardly sets a tone to the character of Farmer Rolf, who is clearly barking mad from the moment we meet him to the inevitable Psycho-influenced conclusion. There is nothing here that will cause a huge belly-laugh but the weird atmosphere and arty flurries combine to make an unsettling vibe whilst the humour seems to butt with it head on, and Rolf Brunnström’s portrayal doesn’t seem to quite nail the humorous or the creepy quite as well as the narrative really needed, leaving Andréa Winter as the only really memorable performance in the whole film – even the violence offers nothing to get over-excited about and whilst competently done, never really delivers anything that you can’t see done on a TV show these days.
Overall, Blood Paradise had a lot of potential but falls short of delivering anything that deserves repeated viewings. The film looks fantastic and has some amusing moments but the underwritten characters, pointless deviations to Hans and his wife, and lack of anything interesting to engage with whenever Andréa Winter is not on the screen makes it a film that may have some appeal to backwoods horror fans but that appeal will be extremely limited and is easy to get distracted from.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★