One of the highlights of Fantastic Fest (so far; as of this writing, it’s only Day 2), is Blood Relatives. This is the type of film that festivals were made for. It’s from a first-time feature director and bends the rules of genre in order to create something unique and all its own. Writer/Director Noah Segan is no stranger to film, having starred in a number of movies (including Brick and Knives Out) and having directed the "M.I.S.T.,E.R." segment of Scare Package, but this year, he comes to the fest with his own feature film. Blood Relatives is a really charming relationship/road trip movie. With vampires. Did I mention vampires? Hells yes! Vampires!
Segan stars as Francis, a lone drifter (and also vampire) who drives from place to place in his kick-ass Barracuda. He gets what he needs as he needs it, drinks blood as necessary, and just sort of…exists. One day, he is confronted by a teenage girl named Jane (Victoria Moroles) who claims to be his daughter. Francis’ life may be simple, but the sudden appearance of a daughter he doesn’t know he has still upends it. Jane’s mother recently passed away, and like Francis, she is alone in the world. She has also inherited some of his abilities and supernatural traits.
But more than vampire powers, she has the opportunity to inherit a connection. As does Francis. As they join up, they begin to explore what life would look like if they actually tried to be a family. The thing that makes this story really shine is the way it explores family and identity. Francis is more than a vampire. Yes, he is a supernatural being that has lived for many years, but more importantly, he has seen things. And lost things. His story is more than just the years that he has spent on this earth. He had a family and a history and the loss of all of that makes his solitude feel sad and empty.
As he and Jane get to know one another, a connection forms and begins to grow. Francis has the opportunity to once again experience the love of a family, and Jane has the opportunity to regain the support and love of a parent (plus the vampire stuff, obviously). The way that bond forms and grows is the heart of the story.
In their conversations, Jane gets to learn about Francis’ past. And by extension, her own past. She gets to learn about the family he lost, the family she never met, and about the history of the family that she has never known. They both get to connect with this shared past and with a possible future. Starting on this new path and forming a new family is no easy task, and they hit more than their share of bumps. Particularly Francis. It’s hard to unlearn a routine - even if it’s a routine of nothingness. But eventually, he takes it on and figures out how to build space in his life for Jane, and for an existence that is more than simply existing.
The film is insanely charming. Segan and Moroles have a fantastic chemistry together. Their moments are funny and heartfelt and so natural. Jane is already so adult by the time that she and Francis meet that they have to begin by getting to know each other simply as people. She’s too old to be a precocious kid, but young enough to inject some life into Francis’ existence.
Plus, there’s vampire stuff. Jane has only recently begun to understand her true nature, and Francis is there to fill in the gaps and help her to get a handle on her powers. Every vampire has to learn somewhere, right? Blood Relatives is definitely a film that you’re going to want to watch for. It’s really a beautiful family story, and the vampire stuff is the sprinkles on top. Super fun, tons of charm, and really heart warming.
Movie Score: 5/5