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March 7-13, 2007

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Cinequest 2007:
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Cult Leader

Bucket Seat Of Blood: 'Blood Car' is Cinequest's cult hit

By Steve Palopoli

AT ANY GIVEN film festival, I figure I have the right to expect one film that truly blows my mind. At this year's Cinequest, that movie is Blood Car. Somebody bust this movie out of the festival circuit; it's got "cult hit" written all over it.

Everything that's right about Blood Car starts with what's so very wrong. First, there's that title, featuring two words that shouldn't be put together outside of a driver's-ed video. The question that immediately leaped to mind the first time I saw the name was: Who drives a Blood Car? Satan? A Red Cross volunteer? Silly me, the answer of course is a wheatgrass-addled vegan in the future!

Second, this movie is about a car that runs on human blood, and yet it's not a horror movie. It's set in an unspecified time where no one drives because gas prices hover somewhere around $40 a gallon, yet it's not science fiction. The only way I can describe it is to suggest: What if it turned out that Mad Max and Soylent Green and Children of Men were all wrong, and the breakdown of society was actually totally fucking hilarious? What Shaun of the Dead did for zombies, this movie does for near-future dystopian nightmares.

After seeing it, I had to track down the cast and crew. I met up with them at Paragon—a.k.a. Cinequest Social Scene Central—just as someone was in the process of attempting to buy them all a drink for making the movie. Director and co-writer Alex Orr explains that the cast and filmmakers are all part of a collective in Atlanta called Fake Wood Wallpaper Films. They got sick of saying they could make a movie, and after someone threw out the idea of a car that runs on blood, decided to just do it. They ended up with something truly original, while still paying tribute to their favorite films. There's an ax gag that apes The Shining. They also snuck in a shot-by-shot reference to GoodFellas, closely studied Roger Corman's 1959 film Bucket of Blood and got the idea for how to show a cat being thrown out of a car from Rebel Without a Cause. Not to mention that Orr admits, "The whole end of the film was The Godfather."

And yet, Blood Car doesn't feel like any other movie. The film looks several times better than its $25,000 budget, the editing is deft and the comic timing is genius, but what it has that is most rare is a certain earnestness that makes it seem downright good-natured and charming even when its humor is totally over-the-top offensive.

"It's not like we try to be outlandish, we just are," says Blood Car's co-writer, Adam Pinney.

Much of the goodwill is generated by lead actor Mike Brune, who plays inventor Archie Andrews. As Archie is torn between his vegan principles and his car's need for blood, Brune delivers a performance that's equal parts anguished and ridiculously funny.

"To play comedy best, you have to play it real," says Brune.

Also good is Katie Rowlett as Denise, a meat-stand temptress who leads Archie down the Hibachi highway to hell.

"Basically, Alex texted me and said, 'Would you want to play a slut who fucks Mike Brune all the time?' And I said yes," explains Rowlett about how she got involved. "It was a challenge to see how dirty and raw I could be."

Underneath all the movie's jokes are some interesting social issues. The film's political edge is either incredibly subtle or incredibly unsubtle, depending on how you look at it. Obviously, there's the question of how much the filmmakers thought about the setup as a comment on the cost of America's car addiction—a literal riff on the slogan "No Blood For Oil."

"That was always in the back of our minds," says Orr. "But we deliberately kept the word 'Iraq' out of the movie."

The even bigger question is how they settled on the Blood Car itself. Easy.

"It's mine," says Orr. "Because everybody was like 'You're not using my car for that.'"

Blood Car plays Saturday, March 10, at 1:30pm at Camera 12. Cult Leader is a weekly column about the state of cult movies and offbeat corners of pop culture. Email feedback and your favorite movie about meat here. To check out a previous edition of Cult Leader, click to the Cult Leader archive page.

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