Single father Aaron fights to save his 12-year-old hemophiliac son after becoming infected with vampire blood.
June 2nd, 2017
Aaron’s Blood is the story of a widowed father named Aaron (James Martinez) and his bullied pre-teen son Tate (Trevor Stovall). They’re dealing with the fallout of their wife’s/mother’s untimely passing, and so things are a little strained at home. At school, Tate gets into a tiff with a bully and ends up with a broken nose. Thing is, Tate’s a hemophiliac. He’s immediately rushed to the hospital and receives a necessary blood transfusion to survive. After that, Tate begins exhibiting some strange behaviors (including an insatiable thirst for human blood). So Aaron must find out what happened in the hospital and discover a way to keep his beloved son from becoming a vampire forever.
The film was very promising in both its concept and initial characterizations and performances. But…
Where the film truly missed the mark was in the father/son relationship. I don’t think that there would be much disagreement from audiences that a parent/child repartee, done well on-screen, will make or break a film. Most have – at least partially – complicated relationships with parents. So when that bond is expressed properly in a screenplay and then again in a film, it’s special.
But Aaron’s Blood never quite made that bond believable or sympathetic. And that’s a giant problem for a film with that connection as its center idea.
I was initially pleased with lead actor James Martinez as Aaron. I immediately bought into his concern for Tate and his tough time with being a single father. But when he had to get emotional (as in the climax), I wasn’t quite on board. He seems to have gone to the Mark Wahlberg School of Acting. Lots of furrowed brows and when the character’s exasperated he’ll pull out the “fingers through hair” bit. I would never say Martinez is as bad as Wahlberg (whom I generally don’t care for as an actor), but it’s not a good performance. But I’ll be clear, I get the sense that Martinez is generally a good actor (although I’ve not seen any of his other work), but this was not his shining acting moment. And Aaron’s our door into this story. Without Martinez’ solid acting work, where are we to turn?
Nepotism? No, not at all. Trevor Stovall is writer/director Tommy Stovall’s son. And while the younger Stovall’s performance isn’t terrible, it’s not very good either. Most of his line delivery is in that pre-pubescent, low voice monotone – which suits the fact that he’s a kid (Tate hates to be called “Tater” by his dad), but when things become confusing, violent and terrifying, lines like “I’m thirsty” and “I’m scared” shouldn’t be delivered with that same flat tone. Flat is the term to best describe Stovall’s overall performance.
Of course, I’m reminded of another young actor portraying a bloodthirsty vampire. Kirsten Dunst’s performance in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire brings up fond memories of her chillingly joyful line delivery for, “I want some more.” The memory comes from potential comparison between Dunst and Stovall. But that comparison ends with the creepy dialogue only – not in the level of performance or ease of line delivery.
Much of the supporting cast felt very amateurish. The boy who bullies Tate was dreadful, not to mention the other actors who are part of the bully’s circle.
One big exception to the less-than acting comes from David Castellvi as Father Kane – a hospital chaplain who attempts to comfort Aaron as Tate recovers. He’ll play an important role in the film, and Castellvi’s cool and calm demeanor as Kane provides plenty of mystery and intrigue. I realize that Aaron’s Blood is all about the father/son bond, but Kane is easily the most interesting character in the entire film. And since it’s only a supporting role, you just won’t get enough. And frankly, this is where, as an audience, you really do want more. That’s a credit to both the character’s history and Castellvi’s performance.
I had problems with some of Aaron’s reactions to what was happening to his son. While we could notch up his non-disgust and quick acceptance to the fact that this is his only child, I feel like there would be a more guttural, primal reaction to what he was seeing. We get a minute glimpse of such a reaction in the woods, but never again.
On that same note, when Aaron has to leave Tate with Aaron’s sister/Tate’s aunt Karen (a terrific supporting performance from Farah White – of 2014’s awesome The Ladies of the House), you’ll have to wonder what the character was thinking. And then he has a vision/dream (there’s an overabundance of these) of a potential kerfluffle between Tate and his aunt Karen – but then doesn’t immediately return to check on things. He continues on his quest for answers. There’s a weird insert (it felt out of place in the timeline) of an important scene between Aaron and Tate somewhere in here, but it’s never explained where Karen is at that moment.
The score was at the least distracting and at the most, overbearing. I was intrigued by the theme used in the opening and closing credits – it was very reminiscent of James Newton Howard’s score for M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. But throughout the entire film, the score just overpowered and most of the time, didn’t match what was happening on-screen. There were also several music cues which bordered on schmaltzy.
The visual effects were all solid (with the exception of the basketball effect). And the few makeup effects were fine, although nothing spectacular. And there are some nice gore effects. I particularly liked a specific decapitation late in the film.
Aaron’s Blood could have been a potential indie classic (it did win several awards at various film festivals) – with some decent production values and an interesting concept, but the two lead performances just weren’t strong enough and the father/son relationship was just far too shallow.
And I think with some additional grit and perhaps a different ending, things could have been better. Yes, this film could have been darker, and I think it should have been.
Aaron’s Blood is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on June 2nd, 2017, followed by release on VOD, DVD/Bluray on June 6th, 2017.