Starting off as a “micro-budget proof-of-concept for a feature length” film, the latest short film from BCS Films (Proper Goodbye) evolved into a small piece of horror art to stand on its own. With a four-man crew that worked double duty in front and behind the camera, Blood Oak is a frozen slab of slow burn terror.
I love winters in Upstate New York. This one approaching will be my fourth. The snowy wasteland of Upstate New York is such a perfect setting for a horror film. Blood Oak feels cold, giving more than just a surface impression. Growing up in the South, I rarely got to experience a real winter and I always wanted to live up north. Living here has done wonders for my writing; the winters, in particular, have been very inspiring. Other New York writers and filmmakers know this inspiration as well. Some examples are Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo, Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here, and James Felix McKenney’s Hypothermia. With Blood Oak joining the bloody ranks, you can almost see a sub-genre of Upstate NY horror forming, because there is a very distinct flavor and tone these films have in common that doesn’t feel like New England or Canadian horror.
Blood Oak suffers from feeling more like a promise than an actual fulfillment, but that’s often the curse of short films. It’s generally their nature. It doesn’t detract from the overall entertainment in the 13-minute-plus run time, but it leaves some unanswered questions. My advice is to approach Blood Oak like a breaking news story; here are some fucked up details, but we don’t have the whole picture. A good short film, though, works within its limitations by being a reflecting pool for the viewer to find their own meaning. This is often unforgivable in a feature length film. For me, this tale of two friends on a doomed hunting trip has shades of the Native American Wendigo legend. I checked with co-director and co-star Tyler Dane Sutton who plays the very imposing antagonist to see if Blood Oak was, in fact, a wendigo story. He told me that was definitely an impression they wanted to give but ultimately wanted it to be more ambiguous. So with that the film works on two very distinct levels, as a supernatural tale and as a straight slasher. For all those fanboys that have been clamoring for years to see a Friday the 13th set in the snow, you should feel a little satisfaction here.
As I said before, Blood Oak was made by four guys: CJ Girard (star, co-director, writer, cinematographer); Tyler Dane Sutton (star, co-director, cinematographer); Justin Mooney (star, cinematographer) and star Emerson Kingsley. The moody score is supplied by Matty C Beats. Between this and Proper Goodbye, BCS Films is showing plenty of potential and ambition. I’m already looking forward to a feature length from this team.