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Malik (Deiondre Teagle) is a painter with all his heart, and with
considerable talent even - but without success to match his aspirations.
In fact he's hardly able to pay his housemate Carson (Brad Belemjian) his
share of the rent money. So it's a Godsent when Malik finds a job as night
watchman at a local art gallery, especially since the owner, Trisha
(Deborah Seidel), proves to be a kindred spirit who's genuinely interested
in his art and even exhibits one of his pictures. It also promises to be a
pretty easy job, as usually the gallery doesn't even need a night
watchman, just now they have a painting with a dark history on display, Le
Mort, painted by one Fiona Walsh (Allison Shrum), who killed herself
upon finishing the picture. It's supposed to be cursed, but that's urban
legend of course - but might make it interesting for some nutjobs with a
criminal streak nevertheless. Now the job at first is as eventless as
expected, and Malik feels quite at home surrounded by all the art - but
then Le Mort, the cursed painting, seems to put Malik under a spell.
Initially, he only thinks he sees and hears things that turn out to be
illusions, but then Le Mort starts talking to him, promises to be his
mentor - if only he follows its request and starts painting in blood. Like
in a trance, Malik does what asks, and he replaces his painting in the
gallery with the new one - which is met with Trisha's initial disapproval
... until the picture sells for a price far above her expectations.
night, there's a break-in in the gallery, but Malik stops the intruder
with the very knife he uses to cut his hand for painting - and it turns
out to be none other than his housemate Carson. Upon the shock this must
have caused, and also out of gratitude, Trisha gives Malik a few days off
- which Malik uses to establish himself a secret studio in the gallery's
basement, just to be able to paint while being close to Le Mort. But
continuing to paint using his own blood, and in secret as well, can really
only lead to one thing, and that's disaster ...
Now in pure
writing, Painted in Blood sounds probably silly, pulpy and
preposterous all at the same time, but on screen it comes across quite
differently, not so much as spectacle horror but a dark meditation about
art and its often self-sacrificing creation. And that said, I freely admit
the film does come speculative at times, even far-fetched, there's
nevertheless something honest about its approach, that despite being
properly atmospheric with all the shock at all the right times shows some
deep respect for art as such, which is mirrored in the film's rather
elegant stylistic approach. And a small but very able ensemble make this
one piece of very cool and pleasantly unusual genre entertainment.