Taking on extreme religion and moral relativism in under 90 minutes is quite a stretch for any filmmaker. Weak performances and rushed storylines piled on top of all that make Nothing But The Blood a tough film to get through, though it is not without its moments.
Taking place through a sprawling timeline, the film tends to focus on a small town reporter and a conservative church that opens a branch in that town. Jessica (Rachel Hudson) is bored on her regular beat and asks her editor if she can cover the opening of the church. As she questions the church leader it is clear that this church is homophobic, abusive, and a misogynist dumpster.
Emeth, the church, is run by Michael (Nick Triola), though the leader of all of the sect is known as Father (Les Best), and he coincidentally might also be Michael’s father. Thomas (Jordan O’Neal) might also be Father’s son, though the fact that Jessica picks him up at a bar one night keys us in to the fact that he might not be as pious as the rest of the family. Jessica’s abusive ex also joins the church at one point, though the rest of the parishioners seem to be plenty abusive before his addition.
With so much going on with each of the characters’ lives there is plenty potential for empathy and development, but too often we are told precisely what is going on with everyone rather than getting to observe them and get to know them on a personal level. There are some nice, quiet moments with Jessica on the beach, but these never achieve any depth to our relationship with her. The script does not allow for that intimacy, nor do the performances lack the nuance to convey much more than what the script plainly tells us.
Nothing But The Blood also seems hell bent on having a conversation about the role of dedication in religion. Should someone belong to a church if they neither believe everything said there nor follow it? Are only the strictly devout worthy? While this consideration is an interesting one, it feels like the convoluted plot was built around such a question and never feels like this is organically a struggle that any of the characters are having.
The score is also distracting and detracts from the emotions of the film frequently, but there is no need to beat a dead horse.
Despite the cumulative shortcomings, there are some moments of genuinely excellent performances in Nothing But The Blood. In two specific scenes, the camera hovers on Father and lets him go off on biblical verses and his own versions of what they mean. In each of these Best is incredible. His command of the words is captivating, and in these moments it is easier to understand how he has amassed so many followers. Hudson also shines when she is given emotionally heavy lifting by the script, and not merely exposition to plow through.
Nothing But The Blood is obviously micro-budgeted, though its many shortcomings are not directly related to the budget. It has a lot of big questions, but cannot manage to get to any answers.