Bloodshot Heart is an Australian feature from first-time director Parish Malfitano, led on-screen by co-producer Richard James Allen (as Hans), Dina Panozzo (as Catherine, Hans’ mother) and Emily David (as Matilda). In this tale of mystery and obsession, middle-aged driving instructor, Hans, is stifled in love by his overprotective mother. He sees his escape plan in Matilda, a musician who arrives to rent a room in their apartment, and a blur of infatuation, eroticism and violence ensues.
Bloodshot Heart opens with Super 8 footage paired with a beautifully evocative score (Ola Turkiewicz). We’re obviously seeing Hans’ past, but was it real?
Throughout the film, the viewer revises and questions what they’ve just seen, and it’s that lingering sense of dread that makes this story of obsession and delusion so interesting.
Heavily influenced by Italian horror of the 1960s, the unusual mix of genre in Bloodshot Heart makes for a surprising cinematic journey and one that is quite rare for an Australian production. Ola Turkiewicz’s score is a highlight, especially when paired with Matt Perrott’s sound design. Both are given the time they deserve in colour-filled, dialogue-free moments, particularly in the film’s first half.
Not long into the piece, Matilda is introduced. She’s filling the apartment’s spare room, and Hans is fascinated from the outset. There’s more to their relationship – or is there?
Behind a closed door, Hans whispers, ‘please stay this time’ and the genre juts back into classic horror; with a hint of Hitchcock’s Psycho, it could be assumed that this is a story about a struggling Freudian duo. In a way it is, but the mother’s character never quite develops past the point of accessory. She’s not quite as devious as Malfitano initially sets up, but actively blocking the potential romantic match, so Hans has to think outside the box to win Matilda’s love. A cunning, violent plan is hatched, and it’s here that the film starts to gain momentum.
Bloodshot Heart is a gritty but fun celebration of film, made with obvious love and passion for the craft. What’s seen as disjointed for some may just add to the adventure for others, whilst the uneven performances can be passed for kookiness of characters. The viewer is left confused and disorientated, and perhaps that’s the best indicator that, overall, Malfitano has succeeded.