Nipples on the Batsuit be damned, Joel Schumacher is an A-list director. One would hardly think that the man behind Lost Boys, Falling Down, and 8mm would see one of his films unceremoniously dumped onto DVD, but such is the case with Schumacher’s latest foray into genre territory, Blood Creek (aka; Town Creek).
It’s 1936, and the Wollner family have received a request from the German government to host an “historian” named Richard Wirth at their Town Creek, Maryland farmstead. The Wollner’s are hesitant, at first, but the promise of a sizeable monthly stipend is too great to ignore, so the family welcomes the professor into their home. Upon arrival, it is apparent that Wirth’s studies go far beyond traditional history, as he informs the Wollners that the real reason for his visit lay in their barn; a massive Nordic rune that the family uncovered whilst digging the foundation for their home. Wirth’s come to America to seek out these runes, left behind by the Vikings on their early expeditions, as he feels they hold tremendous power – a power to “rule the blood”. It’s not long before Wirth begins his experiments with the rune in the barn, using the Wollner’s youngest daughter, Leise, as his first subject.
Flash forward seventy years. Evan Marshall (Henry Cavill) is a young EMT living with the guilt of the disappearance of his brother, Victor (Dominic Purcell), after a hunting trip two years earlier. While Evan’s family still clings to the hope of Victor’s return, Evan’s given up on ever seeing his brother again. On Halloween night, however, Victor returns, battered and bruised, and begging for his brother’s aide in carrying out his vengeance upon the family who’d tortured and imprisoned him for these past two years. Victor leads Evan to a remote farmhouse, where we see that the Wollner family is not only still very much alive; they’ve not aged a day in the seventy years since Wirth’s arrival. In that time, the Wollners have found a way to keep Wirth trapped on their land, protecting the rest of the world from the evil, ageless Nazi blood mage, but, when Victor sets him free, it’s up to Evan and Liese (Emma Booth) to put an end to his reign of terror once and for all.
Blood Creek is a very stylish, atmospheric, and, for the most part, competently made film that features a solid cast and sure-handed direction by the veteran Schumacher. Performances are fairly strong across the board, as Purcell eschews his usual tough guy routine, instead imbuing his Victor with more of a manic energy, while Fassbender oozes creepiness as Wirth, although his best scenes come in the first five minutes of the movie. While Nazis as horror villains – especially the supernatural/undead variety – have seemingly been done to death, the occultist slant freshens things up a tad, as does the rustic modern setting.
Sadly, Blood Creek ultimately winds up being just another in a long line of “trapped in a house” siege tales, with our heroes cowering within the rune covered walls of the Wollner abode while our villain sends wave after wave of reanimated beasties in after them. It’s here that I got the sense that Blood Creek was never quite “finished”, at least in terms of its special effects, as some glaringly obvious CGI imperfections derail what is otherwise a fairly impressive sequence involving a pair of nigh invulnerable zombie horses. I also found the script a little lacking in terms of logic and character motivation, and cringed at more than a few instances of groan-inducing dialogue.
All things considered, Blood Creek isn’t a bad film, but there’s no mystery as to why it got such an under the radar release as it’s not nearly in the same league as the bulk of Schumacher’s films. The big mystery is how the material attracted a filmmaker like Schumacher in the first place – that is, at least until you tune into the surprisingly candid commentary track, where Schumacher talks in depth about his fascination with Nazi occultism, and his love of the cast he assembled for the flick. In the end, it seems as though this is one Schumacher really enjoyed making; I just wish that joy were more apparent in the finished product.
Lionsgate brings Blood Creek to DVD in a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that does a good job conveying the film’s dark color palette (lots of overcast skies, deep blacks, and dimly lit interiors), without too much grain or any evidence of compression. Black levels are solid throughout, but the film is, at times, too dark, making it difficult to discern just what in the hell is going on. The 5.1 Dolby track is lush and atmospheric surround mix, with nicely implemented spatial effects and solid dialogue representation throughout. Extras are limited to the aforementioned Schumacher commentary track.
Schumacher fans thinking they’ve discovered one of the director’s lost gems will be mildly disappointed as Blood Creek is an obviously low-budget, occasionally slapdash affair. Still, despite a sense of sameness and a clumsy script, the film has its charms, Schumacher’s signature style is evident, and the cast is uniformly excellent making Blood Creek a better-than-average direct-to-DVD experience.