Chattanooga Film Festival 2021: Blood Conscious

Chattanooga Film Festival has a reputation for introducing audiences to new filmmakers with interesting artistic voices. Many fans were introduced to Ana Lily Amirpour, for example, when her film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, played the fest five years ago. Timothy Covell might not be a name you are familiar with yet, but if the filmmaker’s CFF entry, the 2021 psychological horror film, Blood Conscious, is any indication of the kind of work he intends to continue making in the future then he will be on every horror fan’s list of directors to keep an eye on in no time. I personally didn’t recognize Covell but took a chance on the film as its shocking premise was enough to peak the interest of not only me but my wife, who tends to be a lot more discerning with the kinds of films she takes an interest in. That initial curiosity we took ended up paying off with one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences of the entire festival.

In the opening, Brittney (DeShawn White) and her boyfriend Tony (Lenny Thomas) are driving out to meet up with Brittney’s parents and to camp in some cabins they rented. Her immature younger brother Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje) is along for the ride with the couple on their trip to what is revealed to be the site of a bloodbath. Bodies lay strewn about the campsite and in no time a stranger with a gun (Nick Damici) arrives on the scene and starts interrogating the trio, demanding to know if they are demons like the deceased around the campsite. It is a tough initial pill to swallow but after that disturbing introduction the stranger leaves with our trio’s phones and a lot of unanswered questions take the movie towards revealing itself for what it truly is: a psychological mystery with a potentially supernatural angle.

The night progresses and Brittney, Tony and Kevin experience more occurrences, and reoccurrences, of uncomfortable interactions between supposed survivors of the shooting that happened before the three arrived at the campgrounds. For the most part Brittney maintains her position as a voice of reason, attempting to anchor everything as best as she can, while Tony takes more and more extreme steps to exert control over an increasingly uncontrollable situation and Kevin, slowly conceding to the idea that demons have begun to take shape of victims of the inciting incident, becomes paranoid and desperate. With chaos running rampant in an isolated cabin and the potential presence of demons always just a step away, I couldn’t help but think of Evil Dead, a film that this film was almost certainly influenced by. Where Covell’s vision departs from Raimi’s however, is that Blood Conscious never one hundred percent confirms or denies our suspicions. My wife and I kept second guessing whether we were really witnessing paranormal events or just a few misunderstandings at the site of a tragedy, and while the film definitely provides answers, the decision not to spoon feed them kept us discussing the movie for a long time after the credits had rolled.

The cinematography, production design and acting were all delivered capably and appropriate to the tone of the movie but it was the subtlety of the story details and the pace in which they were laid out that made this film stand above many others at CFF this year. I’m always glad to watch a scary movie but I’m even happier when I know it’s going to make me work and ask complicated questions. If that is going to be the modus operandi of Covell’s work then you can count me in for the price of a ticket every time.

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