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Saturday, 10 October 2015

Lovecraftian Horror DVD Of The Week: Hemoglobin (1997)


The other day Blumhouse ran a list of "11 Awesome Tentacle-Filled Lovecraft Movies (You May Not Have Seen)" which included a Canadian film called Bleeders that I hadn't come across before.

Turns out this flick got renamed as Hemoglobin and is another (unacknowledged) attempt to bring HP Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear to the silver screen.

A sickly man, John Strauss (Roy Dupuis), returns to the strange, isolated New England island community where he was born, hoping to track down any surviving relatives who may be able to offer insight into the hereditary blood disorder that is killing him.

Traveling with his wife, Kathleen (Kristin Lehman), they befriend the local physician, Dr. Marlowe (Rutger Hauer).

Marlowe steers them towards investigating the Van Damme family, a degenerate Dutch family that came to the island in the 17th Century and built a large mansion which burned to the ground 75 years before John and Kathleen's arrival.

Having realised that John is a descendant of the Van Damme's, the couple discover his family was not killed off in the fire but survived by retreating to the tunnels beneath.

Successive generations of inbreeding have reduced the tunnel residents to stunted, flesh-eating hermaphrodites who resemble nothing less than giant ball sacs.

A storm strikes the island, forcing everyone to retreat to the lighthouse for safety, but they soon find themselves under siege by John's mutant relatives (for no readily explained reason).

For a film that includes graverobbing, cannibalism and incest, Hemoglobin is a bit of a mess, to put it politely.

Although made in 1997, there's a real, dated, '80s vibe to the movie that certainly doesn't work in its favour.

Having opened with some pre-credits gratuitous period nudity (to supposedly explain the background of the Van Damme family) I had high hopes for Hemoglobin, but then once the film gets into John and Kathleen's story and their arrival on the island, it starts to meander.

There's definitely a delightfully quirky nature about the island community that certainly has nods to its Lovecraftian roots, but the film can't seem to make its mind up if it's an atmospheric character-driven feature or an action movie.

Lackluster direction and a cliché-ridden script conspire to create a mostly forgettable horror flick, that can't even be saved by the 'inspired' creature design of the inbred, tunnel-dwelling, ghouls.

In case the opening scene had gotten your hopes up that this was going to be a skin flick, you're going to be largely disappointed.

However, at the height of the storm John eats a preserved foetus (on doctor's orders!), that acts like Viagra for him. He and Kathleen then strip off for some ill-timed rumpy-pumpy that goes on just a bit too long and starts to feel rather uncomfortable.

Sex is a key ingredient to the plot, being the motivating force behind the Van Damme family leaving Holland for the New World and the evolution of their descendants into hermaphroditic mutants, but again the direction of the film wavers between titillation and subversive shock.  

The climax and denouement of Hemoglobin are suitably nihilistic, but the fact that the film has to resort to a voice-over to explain how the ending mirrors the opening scene-setting infodump is, for me, a sign of narrative failure.

And the creatures look like ball sacs. Let's not forget that.

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