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Film Review: Dark Blood
by Mary Nyiri

Dark Blood
Director: George Sluizer
Netherlands 2012

Hollywood celebs Harry (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife Buffy (Judy Davis) decide on a second honeymoon road trip through Arizona in their Bentley to try to save their marriage. Their car breaks down in the desert and, with no place to stay on the horizon, they try to sleep in the back seat until daylight. Buffy has trouble sleeping and sees a distant light. She is thrilled to find a cabin. She meets Boy (River Phoenix), who lives with his dog since his wife died of radiation following nuclear tests near their home.

Boy promises to have the Bentley repaired and tells the couple they can stay with him until then. But soon it becomes obvious to Harry that Boy wants to seduce Buffy, and Buffy flirts shamelessly with Boy; Harry insists that they be taken to the next town. Boy comes up with lots of excuses and ways in which to keep Harry and Buffy there and they realize that they are, in reality, his prisoners.

Boy shows Buffy his doomsday cave where he stores dozens of his hand-carved Katchina dolls which he believes have magical powers. Among the dolls he has food and other supplies ready for the end of the world. There he tells Buffy he believes she was sent to him to start a new world and tries to bed her on the rocks. Buffy rejects him.

Harry attempts to walk out of the desert and fails. He is almost shot by Boy on a hunting trip. Buffy decides to have sex with Boy in exchange for their freedom. Once the deal is done, however, another fight ensues with tragic consequences.

Releasing a film twenty years after initial filming is tricky, but made more so since River Phoenix died leaving important scenes unfinished. George Sluizer reads the missing scenes from the script against a backdrop of stills and after the first few scenes shown this way, the rest seem to fit well, aided by the marvellous cinematography that reveals the mystery and beauty of the American west. The film takes place on Indian territory where nuclear disasters took place; with the inclusion of Indian mystical beliefs like the Katchina dolls and a character who is a bit mad and very strange, it could lead to cult status.

Press Conference: George Sluizer wanted to finish this film after he became ill. The film had been stored for many years by an insurance company after the death of River Phoenix on October 31, 1993, during a break in filming. About 25% of the film was missing and some reels as well. Since many scenes remained to be filmed, at that time completion of the film was abandoned. Eventually Sluizer got the footage and reedited it, filling in the missing scenes. He was in touch with Phoenix’s mother who wished them the best with the film, but no family member was involved in completing the film.

Trivia: Edward Lachman (cinematographer) explained that the last shot taken of River Phoenix was in a tunnel. They did four takes. On the last take that they ever filmed with River, George said “cut” but the camera was still rolling. The lights went down so River looked like a silhouette, then he walked towards the camera and his body blocked the lens and he became like a ghost. That was on Friday and on Monday they learned he was dead. This last shot is missing.