“You gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight” – Leonard Cohen
To be fair, Cohen’s words were likely never meant to connect with vampire films. But they certainly apply to Kicking Blood.
Kicking Blood tells the story of Anna (Alanna Bale), a young vampire who must feed on the blood of others to survive. Together with her brood, they feed nightly off of toxic men and thrive off the high they feel after doing so. However, when she meets a humble alcoholic named Robbie (Luke Bilyk) who tries to get clean, Anna begins to wonder if she can kick her own habit of consuming blood as well, even if doing so could kill her.
Directed and co-written by Blaine Thurman (The New Pornographers), Kicking Blood has a surprising amount of bite to its story. Tightly the written and executed, Blood may be brief but also has something to say. Clocking in at a paltry 75 minutes, Thurman’s film takes a much more metaphorical approach with its storytelling. Although the film fully leans into its horror elements, Blood is equally as interested in exploring the trauma of abuse and its relationship to addiction as well. In this world, death is a dark and mysterious place… but what does it mean to live? Is it possible to begin again when what came before is so broken? These are the questions that are embedded within Thurman’s tale of blood that make it worth exploring.
At first, Blood feels very much like revenge film. As Anna chooses her victims, we quickly notice a pattern beginning to form. Each prey that she targets has been some form of predator. Whether adulterous or abusive, each of Anna’s victims reveals their sins. As such, she appears to justify her kills as an act of vengeance against the darkness of man. (Who’s going to miss men who have hurt others like that, right?) In this way, her feedings are given shades of justice as she fights on behalf of those who have been hurt. If these victims cannot stand up for themselves, she will do it for them.
When she meets Robbie though, things begin to change. Broken by alcoholism, Robbie is ready to die and suggests that he is willing to let Anna take his life. However, in doing so, she sees something different in him. His humility and repentant soul are different than the other men that she has fed upon. In this way, there’s a complexity within their relationship that complicates this tale of vengeance. As Anna’s instinctive desire to feed battles a burgeoning compassion, suddenly she struggles to bring herself to end his life.
Unlike the others, Robbie may worth saving.
However, her experience with him also begins to show her things about herself. It’s here that Blood’s metaphor begins to shift. Whereas once feeding took on an element of justice or revenge, now it seems to point to addiction. For Anna, her desire to inflict violence masks an inner rage that she carries within her. While each kill may be necessary for her to live, it also gives her an energetic high that keeps her going. Even so, her experience with Robbie challenges her to choose a new path for herself. While her friends feed for the rush, Anna decides to try and break free from the painful pattern that rules her life.
Whether or not that’s possible for her is another story.
Dark and edgy, Kicking Blood makes good use of its runtime to prove its point. Using vampires as a metaphor for addiction and abuse, Blood takes one of the darkest of classic villain tropes and uses it to explore what it takes to find hope and healing at a time when it feels most elusive.
After all, as the man says, when darkness falls, Blood reminds us that we can kick against it.
Kicking Blood is available in select theatres on Friday, April 15th, 2022.