Joel Schumacher has had one of the odder careers in Hollywood history. He entered the business as a costume designer, became a reliable director of youth-oriented comedies and dramas in the ’80s, then had an extended stint as an A-list blockbuster-maker in the ’90s, until the campy, ludicrous Batman & Robin knocked him back down. Since then, Schumacher has been reinventing himself via a string of indie dramas and low-budget thrillers, and over the past decade, he’s become one of the most prolific filmmakers in the business. But his profile has dropped dramatically. Mention Schumacher’s name to even the most ardent movie buffs, and chances are that they won’t be able to name more than one or two of the 10 movies he’s made since temporarily killing the Batman franchise.
The jittery supernatural suspenser Blood Creek isn’t likely to revive Schumacher’s rep. Given a token release last fall before being dumped onto home video, Blood Creek has a crackpot premise that Schumacher renders merely competently, with little of the fervor the material requires. Henry Cavill stars as an EMT who follows his long-missing war-hero brother Dominic Purcell to a remote farm where Purcell was recently imprisoned. There, the brothers find a German immigrant family who’ve been living since the 1930s with an obnoxious houseguest: a Nazi occultist (Michael Fassbender) who uses rune-stones and blood sacrifices to keep himself alive until he can complete his transformation into a super-powered being.
Some of the Nazi’s powers are cool—such as his ability to revive the dead and turn them into raging demon-beasts—and the array of mystic weaponry and bone-garments lying about the farm are all nicely designed. Blood Creek has its giddy what-the-fuck moments, as when a reincarnated hell-horse storms into the farmhouse, or when the villain drives a metal stake into his head in order to prepare for his Becoming. But after a compelling black-and-white prologue, Blood Creek mostly remains a generic action movie, teasing out mysteries that take too long to pay off. Dave Kajganich’s screenplay is interested in the various ways people make deals with the devil, while Schumacher is interested in finding ways to make a talky script more energetic. Does he construct eye-catching shots, elicit striking performances, or pump up the oddity? No, he mainly bathes scenes in monochrome mood lighting and has his actors deliver dialogue while shouting and shoving. Ah… the Schumacher touch.
Key features: The director delivers a commentary track surprisingly heavy on historical context. If nothing else, the man is an exceptional host.