Amir (Mazin Akar) and his boyfriend Amat (Kaolin Bass) take a trip to South America after being invited to visit a rain forest. Shortly after arriving, Amir notices that Amat is beginning to behave strangely and claims to see a giant blood red ox. As Amat’s paranoia worsens, Amir has to try and save his boyfriend but when he starts to question his own grip on reality, the pair is thrown into a quickly escalating nightmare.
‘Blood-Red Ox’ from director Rodrigo Bellott is an homage to the psychological horror films of the 70s and 80s. Inspired by Bellott’s own experiences with a boyfriend who suffered from mental health issues, the film blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction. Amir and Amat are introduced as a couple with issues that they’re trying to iron out so the invitation from Amir’s friend Amancaya (Andrea Camponovo) is one they snap up to give them a break from their normal lives.
At first the trip seems to be good for them as they work on reconnecting but Amat’s increasingly strange behaviour gives Amir plenty of cause for concern. Amat’s nightmarish visions are brought to life effectively with Bellott lighting his actors and sets in blood red, really bringing home the horror and fear that Amat feels. What begins as visions soon turns into full blown paranoia as Amat begins to forget things and is unable to even recognise who Amir is.
The film builds nicely for the first half but the second half unfortunately descends into a bit of an incoherent mess. Amat’s behaviour becomes unhinged but the way the plot unravels makes it very unclear what’s actually going on. While this may have been Bellott’s intention, it doesn’t make for an engaging watch and at times I felt like I was just watching two men endlessly running around in their underwear to no end. Essentially the film is trying to comment on mental health but it doesn’t do so in a way that adds to the already widely discussed topic.
I really felt for the film’s two leads Mazin Akar and Kaolin Bass. Both are capable actors and they fully commit to the material they’re given, but the lack of development for their characters is their ultimate downfall. They’re both handsome men, and they make a handsome couple with real chemistry, but the interactions between them are let down by the underwritten script. The supporting cast gets very little to do and they feel almost superfluous to the needs of the plot.
‘Blood-Red Ox’ has big ideas and it starts off well but it quickly loses steam and doesn’t fully deliver on its promise. While a last-ditch attempt to explain what’s going on does appear in the final act, by that time many viewers will likely have switched off. A film plot doesn’t have to be linear but when it goes so wildly off the rails, as this one does, it leaves very little for the audience to hang onto. A nice idea but the execution and plot twists lets it down.
Cast: Mazin Akar, Kaolin Bass, Andrea Camponovo, Vitorio Lema, Julián Mercado Director: Rodrigo Bellott Writers: Nate Atkins & Rodrigo Bellott Certificate: Unrated Duration: 94 mins Released by: Breaking Glass Pictures Release date: 8th November 2022