Balancing the various tones of a movie can be a tricky task. Scream would not work as well as it does if it leaned too heavily into the comedic elements. Yes, jokes and other horror tropes are turned on their head, but the movie never goes outright comedy. It takes the slasher horror angle seriously, and by respecting both the comedy and horror, Wes Craven created a classic in the genre (something the sequels don’t understand).
On the opposite end of that spectrum is Blood Paradise. Written by director Patrick Von Barkenberg and star Andréa Winter, Blood Paradise is a mystery-thriller about a famous crime author, Robin Richards (Andréa Winter), whose newest release flops. Doubting herself and feeling uninspired at her luxurious home, Robin has writer’s block. She meets with her publisher, who convinces her to go to Sweden. But not one of the big, tourist-attracting cities, no, a small farm near a lake.
Robin agrees to go, believing that a change of scenery might re-energize her creatively. She does request that her significant other, Teddy (Patrick Von Barkenberg) join her. Thus, Robin Richards lands in Sweden and takes the train into the small town. She is greeted by her driver, Hans Bubi (Christer Cavallius), who happens to be one of her biggest fans. At the farm, Robin meets the farmer Rolf (Rolf Brunnström), his sister (Ingrid Hedström), and son (Jakob Brunnström Hedström).
With Teddy a day behind her, Robin needs to adjust to some peculiarities such as the hastily put-together shower consisting a fence surrounding a small outside section of the barn, with the showerhead being watering pot attached to a hose. Then there’s the odd ways her clothes keep disappearing, or the fact Rolf’s sister is silent all day, just braiding hair on dolls, or the mysteriously cut phone line, and let’s not forget the off-limits building that strange noises keep coming from inside. Is it just her writer’s imagination getting away with her, or is there something sinister happening on this farm?
“She meets with her publisher, who convinces her to go to…a small farm near a lake…”
While the plot synopsis reads like a relatively straightforward thriller, the movie does not play out as such. As Robin looks over the scathing reviews of her latest book, Return To Blood Paradise (a sequel to her biggest success, Blood Paradise), Teddy is swimming in the pool. When he gets out, he starts listening to spiritual audio lessons about opening his third eye and becoming a dragon. Teddy jumps around, flaps his arms as if flying and takes deep breaths that he lets out like he is breathing fire.
Although amusing, it also undercuts the emotional moment Robin was having by reading those reviews. There is no real segue here, so it feels forced. At first, one might think such distractions, atop of the bad press, is one of the reasons she decides to take the sojourn. However, Teddy is joining her later on, so that doesn’t stand to scrutiny. If the character of Teddy where to be written out entirely, absolutely nothing would change plot-wise, except one scene involving a phone call, which could be easily fixed.
Then there is the subplot involving the bumbling Hans and his wife Elsa (Ellinor Berglund). She takes care of plants, so their apartment is filled to the brim with flowers and shrubs, driving Hans crazy because it gets in the way of his handiwork to fix the place up. They are constantly fighting, which is grating and off-putting. Their marriage makes little sense, and that means this subplot is impossible to invest.
Not helping matters is that their bickering is the worst dialogue in the script. Hans has been home for maybe five minutes, when Elsa proclaims that he has “…been different ever since you picked up that author from the train station.” She then gets in his face about the number of Richards’ books he owns. Considering Hans has had limited interaction with Robin Richards being only her first day in Sweden.
“These eccentric personalities build a sense of suspense and mystery…”
All of this lousy Lifetime channel fodder takes away from any atmosphere that might arise on the farm. Rolf walks into the forbidden barn only when he believes no one is watching, which Robin notices. Then there’s the silent sister, who points in a direction when asked and the equally quiet son, who raises a gun toward Robin at one point for no purpose at all. These eccentric personalities build a sense of suspense and mystery, leading to a shocking reveal and bloody denouement.
However, there is good. Andréa Winter makes her feature-length acting debut and delivers a good performance. Robin’s aloofness never comes across as cold, and when she gets out of the car to help Hans move a couch, it shows an empathetic level that allows the audience to root for her.
While Teddy is not necessary, Barkenberg does well in the role. He throws himself to the ridiculous aspects of the character and that energy leads to some genuine laughs. Rolf Brunnström and Ingrid Hedström, as the farmer and his sister respectively, exude creepiness in their roles, which helps the mystery stay afloat. But as Hans, Cavallius is more grating than anything. Certainly, part of that is script issues surrounding his character, but he comes across as always trying too hard. That makes most of his scenes feel forced and out of synch that the rest of Blood Paradise.
There is a good mystery at the core of Blood Paradise, but in his feature-length debut, Patrick Von Barkenberg fails to bring it to the forefront. The comedy does not mesh well with the mystery-thriller angle, which detracts from the drama which feels shoehorned in thanks to the comedy. Just thinking about it is giving me whiplash. However, some elements work, such as the cinematography and most of the cast, so the film is not a total waste of time.
Blood Paradise (2018) Directed by Patrick Von Barkenberg. Written by Patrick Von Barkenberg, Andréa Winter. Starring Patrick Von Barkenberg, Andréa Winter, Christer Cavallius, Rolf Brunnström, Ingrid Hedström, Ellinor Berglund, Jakob Brunnström Hedström.
3 Gummi Bears (out of 10)