Director Zandashé Brown’s Southern Gothic horror short is a beautifully directed narrative that explores the complex and sometimes darker relationships of mothers and daughters and the stresses of raising a child on one’s own. “Blood Runs Down” has some wonderful imagery and genuinely unsettling moments of terror it’s just mired by ambiguity that makes the overall film somewhat confusing.
Told through three chapters, Idella Johnson and Farrah Martin play Mother Elise and her daughter Ana, both of whom live alone in a small house. The night before Ana’s birthday, Elize is anxious to make sure everything is in order for a wonderful celebration. Exhausted and somewhat worn out from the consistent care of her daughter, Elize retreats to the bathroom for a warm bath, but when Ana gets up from bed to try on her birthday dress, Elize undergoes a scary transition.
Much of “Blood Runs Down” is left to interpretation, as we can never be sure what’s happening is based more around specters manifested from stress, or just symbolism for some kind of mental illness suffered by Elize. Regardless, the transition by Elize is disturbing thanks to the bang up performance by Idella Johnson. Farrah Martin is also quite excellent as the young Ana forced to grow up when she realizes that she may have to defend herself from her slowly deteriorating mother.
Despite the reveal in the climax, there’s not a ton of explanation as to what so much of the imagery means, especially the shifts in the narrative signified by titles like “Idolatry” and “Grief.” So—did Elize pass on to the afterlife? Was Ana stuck in a purgatory? Was it both? In either case, what is made clear in the climax is somewhat beautiful exploration of the complications of single motherhood and the complexities of having grow up very quickly.
The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival runs every year from January 31st to February 3rd.