If you’ve ever pondered what the label “Southern Gothic” means in cinematic terms, “Blood on Her Name” is the very epitome of the genre.
From its evocative title to the working poor milieu of family loyalty, trailer parks, garages, roadhouses, crime and grinding “just getting by” Southern lives, it’s Gothic in a nutshell, first scene to last.
That opener, in the screenplay by Don M. Thompson and director and co-writer Matthew Pope, drops us right smack in the middle of it all.
A battered woman (Bethany Anne Lind) stands, gasping, over a body that’s bleeding out at her feet. He’s a goner. The size of the crescent blooded wrench confirms that.
And Leigh is gulping air and grasping at what to do next. Grabbing the plastic sheeting tells us she has some notion of what to do with the body.
“Blood on Her Name” is about what she considers, the steps she takes to cover her tracks and what she DOESN’T end up doing with the man she killed in the family car repair shop.
Leigh wears this life-and-death experience in the cuts on her face. And with the complicated life she leads, that’s a problem.
Explain it to her son Ryan’s (Jared Ivers) no-nonsense probation officer (Tony Vaughn). He doesn’t want to hear her “good kid” protests.
“I’ve been doin’ this a long time, Miz Tiller. ‘Good kids’ don’t end up here.”
Come up with something to tell her mechanic (Jimmy Gonzales).
Explain it away to her high-mileage sheriff’s deputy Dad (the wonderful Will Paxton).
“Livin’ with something like this is a son-of-a-bitch. But it’s livin’.”
And let her face be her prescription for her pill-peddling drug dealer.
“How much should I take?”
“How much trouble d’you want to get off your back?”
The dialogue is hard-bitten. The characters are worn down by worry, risk and bad choices. And the new bad choices take on baggage and a “code” that Gothic titans like Faulkner and Dickey and Flannery O. and ol’Tennessee Williams would recognize.
Kin and “closure” matter. Doing the minimal “decent” thing after doing the wrong thing is the least you can manage.
“Jesus kid, I’ve seen priests less hung up on old sins.”
Lind, of Hulu’s “Reprisal,” makes a gritty anti-heroine, somebody who has been through all the rough stuff this small town has to offer. Her ex is in prison, her Dad’s a cop, she runs a garage. Grabbing a grope at the honky-tonk is not advised.
Paxton is so on-the-nose as her redneck deputy dad that you can hear him and picture him without even seeing the movie.
And earthy Elisabeth Röhm, recently seen in “Bombshell,” makes a formidable good ol’gal whose man was the one Leigh “got dead.”
It’s not “Blood Simple” or “Cape Fear,” but “Blood on Her Name” makes a short, blunt and brutal addition to the Southern Gothic canon, a tasty and testy short story that spits out great lines and spills a lot of blood before all is said and done.
This is “Southern Gothic” that lives up to its name.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity
Cast: Bethany Anne Lind, Will Paxton, Elisabeth Röhm, Jared Ivers, Jimmy Gonzales.
Credits: Directed by Matthew Pope, script by Don M. Thompson and Matthew Pope. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:23