At the end of most slashers the final girl (or guy) hobbles off, the credits roll, and we don’t give much thought to what those who next come across the scene will think. This is where Blood Conscious picks up. As the film begins, we join a young couple, Brittney and Tony (DeShawn White and Lenny Thomas), along with Brittney’s younger brother Kevin (Oghenero Gbaje) heading up to a vacation cabin their family has been visiting for years. It’s the beginning of the off-season, much later than they usually go, so when they show up and things are fairly quiet, they aren’t particularly surprised. Then they start finding bodies. This movie jumps right in. Not only have Brittney’s and Kevin’s parents been murdered, but seemingly everyone else they know in the area has been as well.

It’s not long before they meet the culprit, a man we will only know as The Stranger (played by Nick Damici). He insists that they were all demons and had to be killed, and he doesn’t exactly trust the newcomers either. This sounds crazy, but as a viewer we’re driven to wonder…what if he’s right? A setup like this can only lead to a pressure cooker of mistrust and suspicion.  No one, including the audience, is sure who can be trusted or if there are, in fact, demons taking over bodies in the woods. It creates a really interesting dynamic for all involved and is a story I don’t think we’ve really seen told before.

It is important here to note that Kevin, Brittney, and Tony are black. While this story is not built on social commentary, their race is definitely an significant factor in every action and interaction. They know instinctively that if the police come, they will be suspected. When a white lady appears out of the woods looking for help, they have to work extra hard to assure her that they aren’t a threat to her life or her property. Writer/director Tim Covell did a great job of keeping these issues at the forefront of the story without making it the whole story. As in real life, the concern about racial profiling against people of color is ever present and critically important, but there’s also a lot of other shit going on—and some of it may involve demons.

There is a unique quirk about Blood Conscious that we must address. It is filmed in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This might put some viewers who are used to wide screen viewing off right away. I noticed it as the movie began but as soon as I got into the story, I forgot about it completely. Covell did address this in a Q&A session following the movie’s Panic Fest 2021 premiere. He mentioned that this was done intentionally for the purposes of properly blocking the scenes containing actors of strikingly different heights in relatively small cabin spaces. It does not take anything away from the film for me, but some cinephiles might feel differently.

Overall Blood Conscious is a fun first outing for Covell and a clever story. The acting was good but some of the character relationships were slow to come together, and I wasn’t sure what the family dynamic was at the beginning. By about the midpoint everyone seemed to gel and really take ownership of their roles, both as actors and the characters themselves. Some of the remaining ambiguity in the story left me a little unsatisfied, but I’m happy enough with the unique idea to still call this a winner.

Blood Conscious had its North American debut at Panic Fest 2021