Early in FAKE BLOOD, director and narrator Rob Grant mentions an act of heinous violence committed by two ten-year-old boys. It struck me suddenly as the crime itself was committed in my city of birth (Liverpool) and to hear it repeated in a documentary written and directed by filmmakers separated by near five thousand miles, took me completely aback. Some acts of violence are unbound by their ability to shock. The act in question- which I will only briefly describe- concerned two young 10-year-old and their abduction and murder of a two-year-old toddler. Their excuse for committing the act; they were recreating the actions of the murderous doll Chucky from the horror film Childs Play 3. This led many to ask what extent movies violence has played in real-world acts of brutality and whether filmmakers behind gory images of murder and death have some degree of responsibility for these crimes. Does fiction inevitably influence fact? These are just some of the questions and ideas writers Grant, Kovak and Patterson set out to explore in a documentary that itself blurs the lines between fact and fiction.
FAKE BLOOD opens on a bloodied corpse splayed in a bathtub, captured with the type of shaky-hand and grain iconic of crime-scene photography. A violent murder has occurred- or has it? ‘Cut!’ comes the demand, as ‘struggling filmmaker’ Rob Grant leans in to frame to relieve his ‘actor/ former friend’ Mike Kovak from his rigor-mortis impersonation. From these early scenes onward our perception of violence and its impact is being used to toy with us. Their story begins when the Vancouver filmmakers receive an ominous video from a fan of a previous film, a Fargo-like dark comedy concerning two dumb-fucks and a botched kidnapping with typically gruesome results. The fan narrates as he walks through a hardware store, informing the filmmakers on the correct way to dismember a corpse in relation to a scene from their film. Unsettled by the video, Grant and Kovak ruminate over what impact their brand of movie violence has had on audiences, leading them down surprisingly dark alleys and to the fringes of the local criminal underworld.
To describe the film in any further detail would do a disservice to this tightly wound and effectively believable docu-thriller, as its central story spirals to unexpected places. In fact, I spent much of the first act expecting Grant to show his hand, resulting in his usual brand of gratuitous bloodshed- the type alluded to by the film’s poster- but instead found his dedication to the question of the influence of cinematic violence (rather than depictions of violence themselves) both refreshing and absorbing. Although Fake Blood may be a maturer fare for a group of indie filmmakers better known for their gleefully OTT bloodshed, it’s no less fun and compelling. For what Grant ultimately presents us in this brisk doc (the director clearly putting his blockbuster editing chops to good use), is less Henenlotter and more Hitchcock, with Grant our James Stewart figure, caught in an obsessive pursuit that may ultimately cost him more than just his friendships.
If there is any fault in FAKE BLOOD it is that the facade of realism falters for a scant handful of over-worked shots (or at least, I think it does), but those are fleeting and likely to be missed by those not scouring each scene for clues. As a result, I too began to ask the question ‘…could this be real?’. Considering the possible implications of its haunting final moment, you too will be hoping it isn’t. FAKE BLOOD was a true festival highlight, and a film I suspect will be with me for some time.