If Blood Widow proves anything, it’s how subtext and the occasional flair for technical details only gets one so far. For his directorial debut, Jeremiah Buckhalt relishes in the way light, or the lack thereof, adds to the framing of shots. Night scenes with his titular slasher play off her deep black leather daddy outfit and pale porcelain mask (DP Andrew Barton runs away with the film). The Blood Widow pops forth from the pitch black of a rural night to dismember or gore Millennial hipsters and frat boys. It’s implied she was sexually abused at the now-abandoned boarding school where she lies in wait, her victimization fueling a transformation into a kabuki demon with Jason Voorhees-level teleportation.
Chad Coup and Ian Davis’ script contrast this determination with the clods she hunts: self-absorbed and aimless, they’re out at the nearby country home for a drunken bash and the requisite sex-having. The couple who just bought the property, Hugh and Laurie—yes, a House joke–are at odds over this. Hugh’s all too happy to rehash college partying and act impulsively (he brought along a crossbow as a sign of alpha-manliness), while Laurie wants to grow up. His decisions, made without her knowledge or consent, leave her feeling betrayed and angry at the idiotic, easily panicked boys which surround her (the cast’s amateurish acting, including hysterical screaming, almost seems inspired). An old photograph reveals Laurie and the Blood Widow are both blondes, making them practically doubles (a fact not lost on the killer: she takes a torture porn route with Laurie, stripping off her jeans and lashing her with a cat o’ nine tails–punishing herself for ever being a victim).
Unfortunately, Buckhalt, Coup and Davis dither as much as their victims. Sequences which should’ve run in one continuous stream get chopped up: one girl wandering from the party while tripping on acid is scattered between useless bits of dancing, robbing any tension from the imminent kill. At other times, characters run back and forth between the same two rooms, killing momentum. It’s the sort of cluelessness which marks low-budget directors unable to work with what they have–one doesn’t see Adam Wingard or Stevan Mena make these mistakes, let alone John Carpenter. Buckhalt could’ve used his villain’s drive.