When River Phoenix died on October 31, 1993, he was about three-fifths of the way through shooting a movie called Dark Blood, directed by George Sluizer, best-known for the excellent Dutch thriller The Vanishing and its shitty American remake. After some legal wrangling over who Dark Blood’s existing footage rightfully belonged to, Sluizer took possession of the film in 1999, and after a health scare a few years ago, he decided he needed to put together as much of Dark Blood as he could, and get it some kind of release. The completed “unfinished movie” (with Sluizer’s narration bridging the gaps for roughly half a dozen scenes Phoenix didn’t get to shoot) has screened to good response at a few film festivals since 2012, and was recently picked up by Lionsgate for a not-yet-scheduled VOD release in America.
While we wait to see when Lionsgate will release Dark Blood, we can at least try and make some sense of this fairly short trailer:
The trail of the tape
Title: Dark Blood
Director: George Sluizer
Screenwriter: Jim Barton
Cast: River Phoenix, Judy Davis, Jonathan Pryce
Release date: TBA
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “Nice to wake up and have people here.”
The entire trailer in one screengrab:
In Dark Blood, Phoenix plays a mysterious hermit who takes in two stranded motorists, played by Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce, and then won’t let them leave. The trailer has a throwback feel, not to the early 1990s, but to the bizarre, allegorical arthouse films of the early 1980s—the ones that usually starred or were written by Sam Shepard. It’s hard to tell much about Phoenix’s performance from the half-minute or so of the trailer he appears in, but it is a pleasure to see him again (and to see a young Davis to boot). This film may end up being more of a footnote than an essential piece of the Phoenix filmography, but better to have it out in the world than sitting on a shelf.