A Question of Betrayal: Amazing Acting Propels Writer/Director Debra Markowitz's Thriller "By Blood"!

"BY BLOOD" (2016)
Genre: Thriller
Length- 14:11
Company:  Intention Films / Halsey Films

Ex-boxer Vincent (Russ Camarda) mourns the loss of Tricia (Diana Durango), his late wife.  Even with the support of his brother Jimmy (Joseph Halsey) and the rest of his tightly knit family, he's barely holding himself together.

But it's after Tricia's funeral, when he discovers a most incriminating piece of evidence, that things really start to fall apart . . .


"By Blood" is the latest short film coming to us from up and coming writer/director Debra Markowitz.  You might remember her as being the captain behind such shorts as "Leaving" and "The Last Taxi Driver" -- both fantasy driven but finely acted works with a pretty hefty central theme.  "By Blood" takes a more realistic approach, but again asks how we can reconcile the past when we are again and again hit with tragedies in the present.

In that regard, Markowitz and company have really hit a home run here.  "By Blood" is emotional, breathtaking in its simplicity and yet some of the dialogue resonates so deeply ("I think that's what happens when you're happy").  To this reviewer's eyes and ears, this is the best and most completely realized short from Intention Films yet.

My only real complaint with the film as a whole was the finale, which was too rushed and obvious considering how deliberate the rest of the film felt.  The showdown, in particular, was too one-sided and didn't quite feel realistic to me.


Markowitz isn't the only individual we've seen before on Forest City Short Film Review.  Joseph Halsey starred in "Junkie Heaven", in Markowitz's own "Leaving" and he directed "Choice: 'Mother'", which we reviewed last month.  But in "By Blood", he returns as producer and actor, and he really shines opposite Camarda.

They work incredibly well together and develop an honest chemistry as siblings.  You get a sense of the history between them which is never overtly spoken, but you can feel it just by the way they look at one another, and they way they talk.  They're both incredibly talented, and it is in no small part due to their talents that this film succeeds.

Visually, the film is more subdued than Markowitz's previous outings.  As a drama, there's a certain limit to what you're going to be able to pull off.  Whereas there was a certain . . . almost romantic sensibility to "Leaving", for instance, with how beautiful the natural surroundings became, here we're limited to a couple of locations and they're all pretty mundane.  Even so, she tells the story and does so in a pleasant enough way.

The only time where she brought her visually poetic style to bear was in that final shot -- the picture of the deceased wife looking over the shoulder of a certain character.  Now THAT was a truly inspired bit of filmmaking, a beautiful moment visually and thematically and I loved it.


Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Markowitz wrote the script, and it's a smart story and the family drama plays out realistically and feels authentic and immediate.  
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  That last shot hits hard, and the rest of the film looks good and moves the story.
Editing: 4 / 5.  Great color correction from Marc Riou.  Robert La Rosa handles the editing, and the whole thing moves fast despite being entirely dialogue driven.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  A little shrill at times, but composer Taylor Bradshaw delivers a score that's sinister at the right moments.
Acting: 5 / 5.  Brilliant is the only word that fits this film when you're describing the acting.  Halsey and Camarda are perfect.  Durango does well with her limited screen time.  Jackie Martling has a short peek-a-boo onscreen as the bar owner, Gus.  Even the small roles are delivered well!

Final Grade: 3.8 / 5.

Don't forget to check out the trailer for "By Blood" at Intention Films' website and follow the creators on Facebook!

Have you seen writer/director Debra Markowitz's previous short films, "The Last Taxi Driver" or "Leaving"?  After you've checked those out, you should read our exclusive interview with her right here!

Like Joseph Halsey's acting?  Who doesn't?  Check him out in "Junkie Heaven", "Leaving" (link in paragraph above) and watch his directorial debut in "Choice: 'Mother'" right here!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!