If you’ve ever wanted to watch a horror movie that also feels like a warm hug, you should seek out Blood Relatives. Writer, director, and star Noah Segan (Looper, Knives Out) plays a vampire named Francis who thinks he’s the coolest guy ever. He wears a leather jacket, drives an old muscle car, traverses America, and occasionally murders people by sucking the blood out of their bodies.
That all changes, though, when Jane comes into his life. Jane (Victoria Moroles) is a 15-year-old girl whose very human mother died recently and may have slept with a vampire about, say, 15 years and nine months ago. The fact she craves raw meat and has to wear a lot of sunblock are also clues that Francis is her father. The realization that his cool-guy life as an immortal vampire might be changing radically is at first scary to Francis, but eventually he embraces it, and that’s when things get really interesting.
With Blood Relatives, Segan is exporing—in the most fun, genre-forward way possible—how a person changes when they become a parent. Not just their life, but who they are. Francis is the ultimate forever child. He literally doesn’t grow up, so has never felt like he has to mature emotionally. But his years and years (and years) of life experience also make him a uniquely capable dad. Not that he wants to come to terms with that.
But he does, and the way the film balance vampire necessities like murder and staying out of the sun with life necessities (school, money) is both clever and endearing. The script has some fun workarounds and compromises that even the most diehard vampire fans won’t see coming. And it all works because Moroles and Segan have such great chemistry. There’s believable tension and compassion between them as one might expect of a father and his rebellious teenage daughter.
All the while, the vampire stuff slowly becomes less and less important, with a few shocking and surprising exceptions. Instead, what becomes more carefully crucial to the characters and film is Francis’ history. We get hints of where he grew up, how he became a vampire, and the Jewish culture he still carries with him. Francis doesn’t seem like the type to regularly practice his religion, but it’s a huge part of his everyday being--and the choice, along with its execution, humanizes the character in a very endearing, enriching way. It’s one of many specific, good decision Segan makes throughout that makes his movie feel like just the right balance of its many genres.
The one downside to Segan performing so many roles, many of which he’s doing for the first time in a feature, is that Blood Relatives isn’t flashy. For the most part it’s a very matter of fact, down the middle style of filmmaking focused more on character and story. So while it might not jump off the screen at you, it simply has to win you over with its humanity. Which it does. Turns out, taking a usually violent genre and stuffing a dissection of parenthood and life experience into it is a lovely way to make a distinct, memorable movie.
Blood Relatives just had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2022. It was produced by Shudder and will surely be on its steaming service in the near future.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.