The southern gothic neo-noir Blood on Her Name is the crime-thriller other crime-thrillers hope to be when they grown up. Featuring a career-best performance from Veteran actor Will Patton and a restrained Bethany Anne Lind whose Leigh is the furthest thing from your stereotypical Southern Belle. Finding herself in an inescapable situation, Leigh struggles to conceal an accidental killing without burying her humanity along with her secrets. Easily one of my favourites of the 2019 Fantasia lineup, Blood on Her Name is a movie that buries a dagger deep into your chest, twists, and breaks off the blade. Packing more tension than a person should be allowed to endure, this movie should only be shown in the emergency room – where pacing back and forth, waiting for the bottom to drop out from underneath you is at least how you’re expected to feel.
Blood on Her Name marks the feature film debut from director Mathew Pope, who also co-wrote the screenplay with producer Don Thompson. The film stars Bethany Anne Lind (Ozark, Flight), Will Patton (Halloween, Armageddon) and Jared Ivers, with Jimmy Gonzalez and Elisabeth Röhm rounding out the cast. Blood on Her Name was an official selection of the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival, programmed as part of the festival’s Cheval Noir Competition, where it celebrated its world premiere July 17th.
“Blood on Her Name […] buries a dagger deep into your chest, twists, and breaks off the blade.”
I was fortunate enough to catch Blood on Her Name at an early press screening ahead of its world premiere and the story structure of this movie is still blowing my mind. The opening seconds drop us into smack dab in the middle of our inciting incident, with no answers as to what has happened. Like seeing snapshots of a crime scene, we are shown small bits of information that, when pieced together, tell a much larger story. We see Leigh (Bethany Anne Lind), out of breath and bloodied. Underneath her on the garage floor, a wrench lays in a pool of blood next to a man that may or may not have deserved what he is now the unfortunate victim of. The backdoor next to her son Ryan’s (Jared Ivers) bedroom is wide open, but there’s no sign that anyone else saw what happened, so for the time being there’s nothing else to do but close the garage door and begin cleaning up.
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This moment (the moment before the movie begins!) is the cornerstone of the entire story, and you never see what happened. Details come to light, and characters share their side of events, but you are left to rely on their word. And what good, really, is the word of a person looking down the barrel of lifetime imprisonment? It’s a brilliant choice because no matter what happened, no matter who is actually to blame, an irreversible choice was made and there is no going back. There is no rewinding the tape. With this horrible situation literally laying at Leigh‘s feet, she can only move forward. What’s fascinating is that the story constantly feels like it is being pulled apart from different directions, like a complicated knot that unravels surprisingly easy as outside forces pull at either end of the rope. Though Leigh’s life wasn’t perfect, or even easy, she was surviving. That is until one small decision shattered her entire world into a million other complicated decisions, like cracks on a windshield spreading out from the impact of a stone that came out of nowhere and ruined everything.
Director Mathew Pope and producer Don Thompson’s screenplay is nothing short of incredible, but it’s Blood on Her Name‘s two powerhouse performances that absolutely sell every emotional beat. Will Patton has never had a bad role in his life, but his gruff, callous Sherrif Tiller would be nothing without the raw, bare-knuckled bitterness of Bethany Anne Lind’s fierce but fragile Leigh Tiller. Hiding from the law when you have good reason to hide is hard enough, but it’s much harder when that no-good lawman is your own flesh and blood. There is no shortage of powerful scenes where barely a word is spoken between characters that just plain understand one another, but Bethany Anne Lind and Will Patton’s characters have that rare ability to look through the other person and peer into the deepest, darkest parts of themselves.
My favorite non-horror genre is something I like to call “People Trying Desperately To Not Get Caught”. Whether that means escaping an impossible situation undetected or covering up a murder, I want to feel my heart beating through my chest. Watching Blood on Her Name is an exercise in meditative breathing, because every. single. second. of this dang movie makes you feel like you are seconds away from the heart attack everyone onscreen should already be having. I feel so bad that I can’t talk a little more openly about the choices this movie takes but it is an f*cking journey that should be spoiled for absolutely no one. If you’re a writer yourself, you will often find writing advice telling you to “kill your darlings”. This doesn’t mean you should literally kill all of your characters but it does mean you should put them through hell, and Blood on Her Name leaves no darling unkilled.
“every. single. second. of [Blood on Her Name] makes you feel like you are seconds away from the heart attack everyone onscreen should already be having.”
Blood on Her Name celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Wednesday, July 17 as part of Fantasia’s Cheval Noir program. The Fantasia Film Festival runs until August 1st, 2019 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Click HERE to check out all of our continued coverage of the festival, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see silly photos, immediate film reactions, and the occasional photo of lunch.