Blood Must Be Repaid With Blood: BLOODLANDS Review

Bloodlands is the new feature from the director of Aussie revenge flick, The Horseman

Writer/director Steven Kastrissios first burst onto the scene in 2008 with his gritty, raw, revenge flick The Horseman. It has been almost 10-years, but now he is back with yet again another genre-bending film. 

Bloodlands focuses on a struggling family who owns a butchers shop in a small village in the Albanian countryside. Their business is on the brink of collapse, and the stress is starting to show, especially with the dad.

In the family, we have the mother who suffers from severe anxiety. The son who dreams of being a photographer; he spends what spare time he has from the shop and slaughterhouse capturing the bleak but beautiful Albanian countryside. Then we have the daughter; she dreams of a world outside of Albania away from the store and repetitiveness of everyday life and tradition.

Things take a dark turn when the father nearly attacks an inbred Albanian mountain clan who are scavaging meat scraps from the fly-swarming bins outside their shop. He has no idea that he has put himself and his entire family in danger. The father has unexpectedly sparked a blood feud between the Albanian mountain clan and his family.

When an Albanian blood feud (Gjakmarrja) gets sparked, it comes under what is known as Kanun Law

The Kanun law is a set of rules that must be followed by the two families in the feud. To this day, many families are still living in isolation in Albania because of past feuds. Some are even born in their homes and can never EVER leave the house for fear of assassination.

Bloodlands offers much more than the blood feud storyline (although that premise alone is fantastic). Without giving too much away, when locked under the threat of a blood feud the family must make drastic decisions that go against the traditional Kanun law if they are to survive. These decisions allow the film to take an unexpected turn from a gritty survival/home invasion thriller into a supernatural horror. Director, Kastrissios still made sure that the second half of the film would still be steeped in Albanian culture.

The scenes shot in the slaughterhouses are real. They were filmed under the proper rules and regulations of slaughterhouse protocol. As an animal lover, I found them extremely uncomforting to watch – but I also know I am full of shit because I am a meat eater. So if you’re an animal lover, you might want to skip past those scenes. They don’t last very long but you won’t be getting them out of your head in a hurry.

What makes Bloodlands more unique is that director Steven Kastrissios and producer Dritan Arbana arrived in Albania with nothing more than a few ideas, a backpack full of recording gear, and a credit card.

With these limited resources, they managed to capture the beauty of Albania while at the same time showing us the hardships of everyday local life in the country.

Steven Kastrissios and producer Dritan Arbana set out to make something completely different with Bloodlands. They have achieved this, and much, much more.

8.5/10

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