Relations (1987, dir: Graeme Campbell; cast: Jan Rubes, Lydie
Kevin Hicks, Lynne Adams, Ray Walston)
box says "horror," but Blood
Relations is more of a mildly erotic noir thriller, at least for the
film's first two thirds.
(Lydie Denier) is the Eurotrash femme fatale, engaged to Thomas (Kevin
Hicks), a young expectant heir eager to inherit his grandfather's fortune. Granddad (everyone's favorite Martian, Ray Walston) is already dying, so
all Thomas and Marie need do is kill Thomas's dad (Jan Rubes) to assure
Thomas is the sole heir.
brings Marie home to meet the family: just dad and granddad. All
three generations of men take a liking to Marie, who resembles Thomas's
dead mother (Rubes's dead wife, Walston's dead daughter). Things
get kinky. Granddad asks Marie to call him "father." Then he
her to strip naked and kiss him. So she does. Hey, he's worth
a fortune, right?
Relations threads noir terrain, so there's the requisite shyster lawyer
to draft the will, his faithless wife (girlfriend?), and a creepy servant. No one is to be trusted, everyone plots against everyone else, forming
shifting alliances over who might inherit the dying granddad's estate. There are faked deaths, lies and betrayals, and a dead cat. Dad romances
both his lawyer's wife and Marie, bedding one and telling the other that
his son "is not a real man" and will inherit nothing.
Relations's milieu resembles that of The
Shining and Curtains. All three films
feature small casts wandering within vast snowbound mansions. Yet
Shining and Curtains are enhanced by their
stark wintry milieu, Blood
Relations is diminished. Shorn of padding and distractions, the
former two films reveal compelling stories, gripping emotional subtexts,
and strong casts; Blood
Relations is left with nothing but a banal hackneyed script, performed
by competent but unspectacular actors.
its lavish mansion set (the only location aside from a few hospital rooms), Blood
Relations feels surprisingly cheap. Just a handful of characters wandering
spacious halls. It doesn't feel spooky or claustrophobic (as does The Haunting). It only feels empty and
low-budget and ... cheap. Only one servant in sight.
until the film's final third that the suspense/noir elements are discarded
for horror. I don't want to spoil too many surprises. Just
that dad is a brain surgeon. In a horror film, that means he likes
to transplant brains, whether the subject is willing or not. And
serendipitously for horror fans, brain surgery is often best conducted
while the subject is conscious.
Relations isn't the first, nor last, film to feature consciously aware
brain torture. Bloodsucking
Freaks (1977) and Hannibal both come to mind. Happily, despite its tepid noir elements, when Blood
Relations (finally) shifts into horror, it manages some disturbing
and effective scenes. Not many, but they're there. Also some
artily shot "dream" sequences.
confuses. I'm not sure where all the brains went. One was cooked,
one was transplanted, but what of the rest?
enjoy hackneyed low-budget noir, perhaps you won't mind waiting to get
to the gory horror. Poor Marie. All that noir buildup, then
the rules change. For while femme fatales often triumph in noir,
horror is a mad scientists' genre.
Review copyright by Thomas
"Communist Vampires" and "CommunistVampires.com" trademarks are currently unregistered, but pending registration upon need for protection against improper use. The idea of marketing these terms as a commodity is a protected idea under the Lanham Act. 15 U.S.C. s 1114(1) (1994) (defining a trademark infringement claim when the plaintiff has a registered mark); 15 U.S.C. s 1125(a) (1994) (defining an action for unfair competition in the context of trademark infringement when the plaintiff holds an unregistered mark).