“Bloody Ballet” is the story of Adriana (Kendra Carelli), a pretty young dancer with a tragic past. After securing the lead in her ballet troop’s production of The Nutcracker, Adriana starts having horrifying, violent hallucinations that increase in frequency and ferocity while her fellow dancers find themselves terrorized by a masked killer.
Directed by Brett Mullen and written by Mullen and Matt Cloude, this movie aspires to be more than just an average hack-n-slash. Bloody Ballet is an ambitious movie: it attempts to blend several horror sub-genres together to create something fresh. It also serves as a homage to many of our beloved horror classics. (There are “Easter-eggs” throughout, but I am not going to point them out to you- I don’t want to spoil all the fun).
The acting here is fairly solid, with many faces in the cast being recognizable to horror fans (especially Caroline Williams as Miss Valli; most of us will remember her as Stretch from Texas Chainsaw 2). There are a few places where the actors go a little bit over the top with their performances but, for the most part, everyone does a good job. Most of the characters have a haunted aura about them, which is in keeping with the movie’s ethereal tone. Casting Kendra Carelli as Adriana was a great choice because there is something inherently likable and familiar about her. There is some genuine chemistry between Adriana and her best friend Berna (Katie Carpenter), as well as Adriana and her therapist, Dr. Cassinelli (Debbie Rochon).
I was very impressed with the cinematography: this movie is beautifully shot. You can tell Mullen and his team took great care crafting the look and it pays off. The camera work, together with inspired lighting choices, creates a surreal atmosphere that is in keeping with the psychological aspect of the movie. In many of the scenes, the lighting is thrown into electric pinks and blues which is a definite nod to the original Suspiria, but when combined with the dark, synth-laden soundtrack, the neon color scheme is totally evocative of the 1980s (the opening credits are also a throwback to the good ol’ VHS days). This movie takes style very seriously, that much is clear from the opening shot, which made me happy because so many horror filmmakers these days reject the nuance of style and mood in favor of claustrophobic darkness, quick-cuts, and booming jump scares. Here, the camera lingers, takes its time, pulls back and makes great use of the impressive locations, especially the theater. Mullen (who also served as director of photography) is certainly an apt pupil of the genre’s masters like Hitchcock and Carpenter, using the camera in a way that not only records the story, but enriches it.
The music ranges from the orchestral, to classical (Moonlight Sonata is used to great effect in one scene), to pure 80s pastiche (there’s even a short audio homage to Flashdance’s “Maniac”). I was instantly reminded of some of my favorite movie scores by The Goblins and John Carpenter. The score and the camera work in tandem to create a very distinct atmosphere, which I feel is this film’s greatest triumph. There is palpable tension throughout: we are left to wonder if this is all going on in Adriana’s mind. It makes us uneasy because we’re never sure what is real; the leaps from fantasy to reality are seamless.
Another very high point of this movie is the practical make-up work. Bravo to the special effects team! The gore is awesome and there are plenty of up-close, in-your-face moments that really get the stomach churning. And it’s not just the blood and guts that are impressive: the dream/hallucinatory sequences are wonderfully done. There is one particular dream scene about forty minutes in that is so bizarre and psychedelic and beautiful all at the same time; it doesn’t look like something you would expect to see from an independent movie, but from a big studio production with millions of dollars at its disposal.
My one issue with the movie is that it tries to pull itself in too many directions. In the beginning of this article I spoke about this movie being ambitious, and it is, but maybe a bit overly so. Part slasher, part supernatural thriller, part psychological who-done-it, the movie over-extends itself at the expense of the story. It needs to be reined in a bit. For example: there is a tangential storyline involving a reporter (Rob Springer) that really has nothing to do with the plot and I found it to be confusing and a bit distracting. Now, with that being said, I really don’t feel that the movie suffers much because of it. It all comes back to the word I keep using in this review: atmosphere. Bloody Ballet has it in spades and it’s what makes it compelling and entertaining.
On IMDB, the movie is currently listed under its previous title, “Fantasma” (2017), and it has a score of 7.4/10. I gave it a score of 8.1/10. I really enjoyed the movie and I have to give kudos to the filmmakers for having some balls and getting creative within the confines of an all-too-often formulaic genre. Check it out, horror fans. I think you’ll enjoy it.
“Bloody Ballet” is being released by High Octane Pictures and will be available VOD on November 13th and on DVD on December 4th.