Blood Runs Down (2018): Movie Review

In the eye of a storm in rural Louisiana on the eve of a young girl's birthday, she is forced to confront her mother's bizarre behavior and come to terms with its outcome that will inevatibly affect her future.

Written & Directed by Zandashé Brown

Many of the critical scenes in 1976's Stephen King film adaptation Carrie between the title character played by Sissy Spacek and her mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie) are lit with candles and dim tones that make the sympathetic and jarringly tense exchange between crazed, religious-fanatic of a mother and daughter who simply craves normalcy, some of the most memorable scenes in film history. Upon its multiple duplicates, in my opinion, none shine as bright at the first.

And while filmmaker Zandashé Brown is a pure original, her short Blood Runs Down echoes this similar aesthetic choice and lets her roots blossom with a detailed reflection on generational trauma amongst Black women and girls. What does that look like when its given a supernatural identity that we're forced to face? Mother Elise (Treme's Idella Johnson) and daughter Ana (Farrah Martin) highlight the intimate and ethno-astute place where black mothers and daughters often exchange emotions on growing up and the dreaded snag of a brush through tresses. As the pureness of Ana's innocence as well as her pending, highly anticipated celebration lulls you into a false sense of ease, tension builds as the score swells and the brief isolation between Elise and Ana on this stormy night unboxes a manipulative presence that whispers and hides in the shadows of their home.

The moving, horrific aspect of Blood Runs Down is Ana's fresh, cognitive discovery of indepedence just as her relationship with Elise is in jeopardy. Some of us as young girls look to our mothers or older female caretakers to navigate girlhood to womanhood. In youth, a disconnect can feel hollow or leave one directionless. There's a despair and desperation in Ana's demeanor as her mother spirals. And Brown, along with Johnson and Martin's emotional performances, are incredible at cleverly braiding in the supernatural that allows Blood Runs Down to reveal a truly unmatched cinematic twist. 

The warm lighting throughout the narrative's heavy and bottomless tone offers a balance that southern gothic horror commonly rewards to viewers. There's a natural ambiance that welcomes all fives senses to feel Blood Runs Down as an experience both gut wrenching and joyous. This short intertwines faith, doubt, and beauty with haunting visuals and sharp, unnerving sound design. Brown is setting the bar for filmmaking and most certainly, southern gothic sensibilities in film that I predict will be noted as a standard in the years to come.

It's a film that I myself, am still processing. As a woman with an imperfect, deep bond with my own mother, Ana and Elise's sentimental journey in Blood Runs Down uses the supernatural to tell a somber tale of family that will poke your core. Your regressions may rise from some abyss on "the other side" as a revelation when you share your viewing experience with others.

See Blood Runs Down at BlackStar Film Festival, Sunday, August 5th at 11:45AM in the Haint Business (Shorts Program):

Tormented by unfinished business, the living and the dead cross metaphysical boundaries to communicate–the one affecting the world of the other. In these stories, haunting triggers healing.

Want more Zandashé and southern gothic horror? Read our exclusive with her here.

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