I try to steer clear of independent horror movies that ape big budget Hollywood movies. When I saw the title BLOODY BALLET, I foolishly assumed it would be a low-budget take on SUSPIRIA (2018). I am happy to report that I was wrong. The only thing the two films have in common is that they both take place at a ballet academy. The similarities end there. BLOODY BALLET is a bloody tour-de-force unto itself.
In a highly completive ballet academy, the young and beautiful upstart ballerina, Adriana Mena (Kendra Carelli), is given the lead role in the school’s forthcoming production of The Nutcracker. Simultaneously, there is a masked killer on the loose who is taking down and slaughtering ballerinas. Oh, and in an alternate timeline, there’s a paranormal investigator by the name of McCabe (Rob Springer), trying to unravel who the killer was.
BLOODY BALLET is a surprisingly well-made movie, even if I prefer it by its original name, FANTASMA. I loved the cast. Yes, the majority of it was made up of relative unknowns, but they all put on top notch performances. I simply adored Kendra Carelli. She is perfection as the film’s millennial final girl, Adriana. That and her relationship with her best friend Berma (Katie Carpenter), seemed genuine, as if they had been friends for years.
I’d be doing BLOODY BALLET a disservice if I failed to mention how incredible genre film veterans Caroline Williams and Debbie Rochon are in this movie. Caroline Williams is absolutely believable as Ms. Valli, the head instructor at the ballet academy. She is strict but caring. Also, it took several scenes before I realized that the role of Adriana’s psychiatrist, Dr. Carlina Cassinelli, was being played by the one and only Debbie Rochon. This role showed true versatility. She gave me a Dr. Loomis in HALLOWEEN (1978) meets Dr. Decker in NIGHTBREED (1990) vibe, and I loved it.
I have to add that the cinematography — by Tony M.Collins and director Brett Mullen himself — was stunning. Right from the eye-catching opening scene, with the police protecting the crime scene at the ballet academy where snow is falling beautifully around them, I was drawn into BLOODY BALLET. Then in several scenes, the lighting mimics that used by Dario Argento in his early masterpieces. The oversaturated hues and the colored film gels fit the tone of BLOODY BALLET like a tight black glove.
At its core, BLOODY BALLET is a classic Italian giallo, with a modern American twist. It had every giallo trope without coming across as parody, which is a feat in itself. The soundtrack is without flaw, it gave me life! I instantly fell in love with the Goblin-esque ’80s synth-driven score by Umberto & Nightstop — it’s ridiculous how good it is.
Besides the incredible soundtrack, BLOODY BALLET has many other attributes that it shares with original Italian giallo. First off, the masked killer is so brutal, which brought to mind the 1987 classic STAGE FRIGHT. The gore and blood splatter carry on with this aesthetic, with its bright unnatural red tone. Then there’s lots of nightmarish imagery with little explanation, which reminded me of DEEP RED. To top it all off, there are multiple red herrings. You never really know who the killer is, until BLOODY BALLET lets you know who it is.
My only major complaint about BLOODY BALLET is the paranormal investigator sub-plot. It’s completely unnecessary, though it doesn’t spoil the rest of the film. BLOODY BALLET is an excellent film that combines surrealist slashers imagery similar to William Lustig’s masterpiece MANIAC (1980) with the high-end artistry and themes of narcissism of THE NEON DEMON — all the while maintaining a similar story arc to HALLOWEEN (1978).
If you are a fan of classic Italian giallo, or just a gorehound who can’t get enough of the red red stuff, then I would strongly suggest you take a look at BLOODY BALLET. It’s most certainly worth a watch!
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Tags: Ballet, Brett Mullen, Caroline Williams, Columns, debbie rochon, Horror, Katie Carpenter, Kendra Carelli, Matt Cloude, Nightstop, October Coast, Rob Springer, Shane Terry, Straight Outta Straight-To-Video, Umberto