Opening with a pool of blood and panicked breathing, Blood on Her Name is a fairly typical neo-noir that’s well crafted enough to still be worth watching. It’s an anxious look at guilt and responsibility, and is well suited for lovers of genre fare who don’t need something entirely inventive to have a good time. It’s a new kind of revenge tale, one that is revenge within a character’s mind upon herself for what she has done.
Leigh (Bethany Anne Lind) panics when she accidentally kills a man, and decides to return his body to his family. The return is meant to ease her conscience, but she is only trapped in a spiral of deception she did not wish to create. The killing was out of self- defense, but could have dire consequences for Leigh and her son. Instead of leaving him to disappear, she chooses to confront her own guilt, and to at least leave the family with answers. This is, the harder path, but the righteous one, even when circumstances leave no good option.
Tension is done particularly well, with the sound design dialing up the breaths so we can feel a panic attack coming. This is largely anchored by a strong lead performance, one that makes the character’s devastation at her circumstances all the more raw. It’s a fear factor without trying to scare viewers, unless, of course, we are scared for the character. Lind’s performance makes her one to watch, as she cries out, tries to put on a brave face, and hold her head high to face the truth of this death. She’s on edge at all times, experimenting with drugs to calm the constant yelling in her head she’s had since. It never comes down to a question of whether Leigh is a good person or an evil person, it is instead about the weighting of individual actions, and what good they can do for the world, and what harm they bring.
For a low-budget thriller, the avoidance of flashy effects that could easily go wrong makes the film a lot tighter. Often shot through mist and fog, it is atmospheric when the visuals grow as hazy as the judgement on camera. Sometimes it grows visually flat, with scenes in a garage where it all begins occasionally growing drab and too utilitarian. Some of the nighttime shots are a little harder on the eye than they could be, but this is a small film that overall has great production value, so it isn’t much of a fault.
It’s devastating to see how quickly consequences can come up, even when we make mistakes. It’s about washing your hands clean of blood, only to find that you are bleeding too. Even if Leigh does everything right to try and fix her mistake, it is still there, and there is nothing she can do about it. The body is an apology letter, a way to admit to what happened wordlessly. By returning the man’s corpse she can at least connect with the reality of what went on, even if everything before has changed. No matter what, the incident will catch up to her, so it’s a final chance to do what her conscience says is the right thing. We are never told to side with her, but it’s hard not to.
Overall, Blood On Her Name is a tense, thought provoking moral dilemma. It’s well paced, character driven, and bloody; a hidden gem for fans of noir. It is a traditional noir story to tell the tale of dealing with an unexpected death, but director Matthew Pope handles it in a way that borders more on a psychological horror/thriller than any sort of crime tale. The image of a young woman with a shotgun barrel pointed into the camera is one commonly used in horror, and here our anti-hero takes this final girl pose, and the trope is flipped to fit the ethical dilemma.