[Review] Bloodshot Heart (Fantaspoa 2021): Trippy Australian Chiller Delves into a Man’s Anguish over Loss

Writer/director Parish Malfitano’s Australian feature film debut Bloodshot Heart examines the themes of obsession, loss and the trauma it can cause, depression, visions of grandeur, and other psychological issues in its tale of the downward mental spiral of lonely Italian driving instructor Hans (Richard James Allen). The film uses multiple actors in one role à la Luis Buñuel (That Obscure Object of Desire) and takes cues from such directors as David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Nicolas Winding Refn, and others in delivering an unsettling, horror-infused character study. 

Hans lives under the thumb of his dominant mother Catherine (Dina Panozzo), with whom he shares a home. Needing money, they rent a bedroom out to Matilda (Emily David), a budding musician who reminds Hans of his deceased girlfriend Sarah (Hazel Annikki Savolainen). Catherine doesn’t want Matilda there, which she makes quite clear to the young woman, but Matilda sees Catherine for the manipulator she is and stands her ground. Meanwhile, Hans sinks deeper into a fantasy world, leading him to make a dangerous decision that puts multiple lives at risk.

Malfitano combines elements from the directors listed earlier and others without ever leaning too strongly on any one. The result is a tense, unnerving cinematic experience that goes from drama to suspense, with surreal and psychedelic flourishes. Things start to fall apart for Hans and those he knows when a former suitor of Matilda’s comes calling uninvited, and violence ensues. From there, what is fantasy and reality becomes more heavily blurred for both Hans and viewers, and Malfitano does a terrific job of keeping viewers on tenterhooks. 

Allen gives a riveting performance as the deeply troubled Hans, conveying as much with wandering gazes as he does with primal cries and everything in between. He is aided by a fine supporting cast, including Panozzo, David, Savolainen, and Peter-William Jamieson and Matt Lausch as a pair of meth-fueled brothers.

Bloodshot Heart boasts some gruesome deaths and leaves some equally discomfiting mysteries. It’s a great-looking film that takes some of its color palette cues from giallo and other European films of the 1970s and 1980s, combined with antihero elements from American cinema of the same decade. It’s a grim and sometimes painful ride, and well worth a watch.

Bloodshot Heart screened as part of Fantaspoa 2021, which ran in Brazil on the streaming platform Darkflix from April 9–18, 2021. 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.