The opportunity to play against type would have been a large part of the appeal for American Pie alumni Seann William Scott in signing on the dotted line for Bloodline. His post Pie career which includes a stint in a Lethal Weapon TV series, a turn as Bo Duke in the Dukes of Hazard feature film and the title character in Goon: Last of the Enforcers hasn’t exactly provided him the opportunity to break from an early typecast.
Here, as family man and school counsellor Evan Cole he’s lost the quirky swagger and mischievous grin. He’s downbeat and serious, lacking any kind of exuberance or even humour. A newborn baby triggers sleepless nights, pent up rage and violent impulses in Cole, sending him out into the night tracking down and systematically slaughtering the deadbeat dads of his counselling students. It’s impossible to ignore some pretty direct links with the television series Dexter, domesticity vs bloodlust and the attempt to harness a seething murderous impulse to at least take out the undeserving.
From first time filmmaker Henry Jacobson, there is an unrepentant joy in the gratuitous, from the geysers of blood hitting Cole in the face, to a particularly graphic birthing scene (which triggers some PTSD in Cole). In fact the opening feels like a tip of the hat to Italian Giallo, with a deserted hospital and a naked women in the shower having her jugular severed by a mysterious unseen knife wielding maniac.
Yet whilst the visceral horror elements are present, at its heart Bloodline is a claustrophobic family drama – a pressure cooker without an escape valve. Dale Dickey’s (Hell or High Water) turn as Cole’s mother is creepily impressive as the tension rises within the not so happy household.
Whilst it’s easy to suggest that tonally Jacobson should have chosen between the gratuitousness and the drama, strangely enough for the viewer as much as for Cole the more abrasive scenes do serve as a kind of release.
Bloodline provokes quite an interesting question: What is it about childbirth that can trigger these kind of responses in men? From infidelity to family violence to bizarre works of art like Eraserhead, some men don’t tend to react too well to having their (often privileged) position in the family usurped. Whilst Jacobson ties Cole’s actions specifically to childhood trauma – which has resulted in a pretty puritanical view of family, it might have been interesting to explore why his new son provoked these impulses in him at this time.
Bloodline isn’t perfect, but with great performances, a really good electronic score from Trevor Gureckis (The Goldfinch) and some interesting themes that develop as the tension ratchets up, it’s a seething potboiler that will ensure that you no longer look at your family the same way again.