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  My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To Family Of Blood
Year: 2020
Director: Jonathan Cuartas
Stars: Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell, Moises L. Tovar, Judah Bateman, Katie Preston, Anthony Pedone, Jon Rhoads, Ivana Pecon, Nancy Fong, Micah White, Colby Frazer, June Frazer, Sarah Longoria, Steve Brown
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dwight (Patrick Fugit) has some work to do tonight as he picks up a homeless man who was rifling through some bins. He gives the man a burrito and tells him he will take him to a shelter where he will be looked after, and though the vagrant harbours doubts, he agrees to go along in Dwight's car. However, as they get out at their destination, a rundown house in the suburbs, Dwight knocks out the man with a baseball bat and drags him inside, where with his sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) he drains the unfortunate man's blood, all the easier to be drunk by their younger brother Thomas (Owen Campbell). Thomas needs blood to survive, and his siblings can provide it - but at what cost?

One of those vampire movies where nobody mentions the word vampire, so you knew it was serious, this was the debut feature from Jonathan Cuartas after a few years of making short subjects, and it did very nicely for him on the festival circuit, picking up a few awards and nominations. That could have been down to it being a horror where you were assuredly not supposed to be having a good time watching it, this was grim from beginning to end - well, almost the end, as it contrived to work out a "happy" ending for at least one of the miserable characters, albeit one with a number of caveats and ordeals to have gotten through. Cuartas was careful to sustain the tone of arthouse chiller all the while.

Indeed, if you were looking for themes, the one here could have been that a public healthcare system is there for a reason, and if you ignored it to try and treat a serious malady yourself, you did so at your peril. This was an American film, so obviously that option was not available to the family we saw, as if they had access to professionals this would have taken a very different route, though it was worth bearing in mind that Jessie ensured they were so insular that even if there was a public healthcare system, they probably would not have used it. Nevertheless, you expect a social worker to appear at the door as every minute goes by, despite the suspicion they would simply be whacked over the head, drained of the red stuff and fed to the sickly Thomas if they did show up to investigate some pressing matter of guardianship.

We are not told what happened to the parents here, indeed as far as we know the trio may not even be related by blood and have simply been thrown together by fate, but we can perceive Dwight would dearly love to break this cycle of murder of those who will not be missed, dimly aware that he and his siblings would not be missed if they disappeared either. Meanwhile Thomas exerts a childlike neediness over the other two, one of the most pathetic vampires since Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula, though he is more in the tradition of "is he or isn't he?" bloodsuckers like George A. Romero's Martin, yet no matter his appetites, it is maybe Jessie who is the real monster as she pushes them all forward on to further acts of murder. You could interpret this as a study in loneliness as though the three have each other, they cannot open up to anyone, not even themselves, about how awful they feel, as if admitting the ghastly nature of their existence would force them to further depths of despair. Dwight has a prostitute (Katie Preston) he fumblingly asks to go away with him, but really, they all need a break. And help. And a visit from the local police. Music by Andrew Rease Shaw.

[My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To will be available on Digital Download from 28th June 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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