By Chaz Lipp
Director Jeremiah Buckhalt’s debut feature Blood Widow is a slasher film hitting DVD on June 3 from Midnight Releasing. Though it gets off to a bit of a slow start, once its titular villain – a female clad in black, her face hidden behind an unnervingly inexpressive porcelain mask – starts slaying hapless victims with a razor-sharp sickle, the tension never lets up. The gore is quite copious, the tone is serious, and star Danielle Lilley carries things ably with a solid performance as protagonist Laurie Sullivan.
Of course, a different scale applies in the world of no-budget horror films (i.e. no Meryl Streep-level acting). That said, Blood Widow rises amongst the glut of similar bargain basement offerings. Buckhalt clearly knows how to maximize his limited resources, establishing a formidable female killer (Gabrielle Ann Henry) with a plausible back story (the screenplay is by Chad Coup and Ian H. Davis). The Blood Widow was abused ruthlessly during her upbringing at a now-defunct boarding school. After Laurie and Hugh (Brandon Kyle Peters) move into a house nearby, some of their rambunctious guests break into the boarded-up old school. That’s when people begin meeting the business end of the Blood Widow’s sickle.
Buckhalt and company don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel: the set-up, complete with an alcohol- and drug-fueled party, is pretty standard. The supporting cast does what they can with thinly-written characters, including Kenneth (Christopher de Padua), Harmony (Kelly Kilgore), and Amber (Emily Cutting). They’re mostly targets for the Widow to mow down. But the kills are effective, with Gabrielle Ann Henry conveying a hint of innocence in her body language – as if she doesn’t kill with malice, but rather because it’s all she knows. The Blood Widow doesn’t speak, but she moves with the curiosity of a child. It’s a welcome variation on the more typical hulking, male slasher.
Laurie, it becomes clear, is the only one even remotely capable of fending off the Blood Widow (certainly Hugh’s crossbow, the wimpiest little thing imaginable, is no match). Danielle Lilley really rises to the occasion. She makes Laurie’s fear and survival instincts entirely believable. It certainly helps that Lilley is built like a brick shithouse; her solid (and totally hot) body is able to realistically withstand some serious smack downs. Please note that the T&A factor in Blood Widow is non-existent. But it’s to director Jeremiah Buckhalt’s credit that there’s more than enough here to sustain interest even with the relatively chaste approach.
Blood Widow will be available at Redbox and elsewhere on June 3 (currently pre-orderable on Amazon). The DVD (which I did not have access to) contains, according to the listing on Midnight Releasing, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and audio commentary.
Images: Midnight Releasing