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 / 5)