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By Matthew Sorrento | March 31, 2008

“The Bride Wore Blood” has some tricks up its sleeve. They aren’t revealed until near the end, proving that this hour-long film (more than a short, but not quite a feature) is like an aspiring writer’s attempt at “The Usual Suspects.” But before the plot turns into a puzzle (and a bit puzzling), one twist appears right away: subtitled “A Contemporary Western,” this film is really a moody thriller motivated by a revenger.

A gunslinging bounty hunter (Travis Shepherd) is charged to protect a character named “the Bride” (Christy Sullivan); when he finds her murdered, he’s bent on vengeance. He is motivated by the memory of his mother’s death, which would be better suited for backstory than as an awkward flashback in the film. When he reaches his targets, a mystery begins to unravel, and the script unveils its contrivances, which are more clever than satisfying.

Yet writer/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are comfortable putting their story onscreen. The visual composition, which makes good use of foreground and background, is formally tight and telling, even if many shots linger and abuse the zoom lens. Thus some visuals are over-stylized, like when a buff target of the bounty hunter awaits around a corner as if he were posing for a fashion shoot. But overall, the direction lets the film’s somber mood flourish and allows the hired gun to develop into a languishing, tortured soul instead of a device of the deliberate script. The visual skill of Beck and Woods is likely what caught the attention of voters for MTV’s “Best Film on Campus” competition, which awarded the two with a plasma TV that, in guerrilla filmmaking spirit, they hocked to finance this film.

It’s a shame that the casting wasn’t stronger, as the long-haired hired gun appears less like a “Man with No Name” than a death metal front man. When Shepherd howls “Liar!” at a shady policeman, we realize that such a role is not a stretch.

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