Blood Relatives (Claude Chabrol, 1978)
Canada Cost Allowance Film
A teenage girl is brutally knife-murdered in a dark alley of Old Montreal and a police investigation ensues, with the only witness the girl’s friend, who can’t recall the events of what happened on the night.
One of prolific author and screenwriter (including Hitchcock’s The Birds under his frequent pseudonym Evan Hunter) Ed McBain’s numerous NYC set 87th precinct procedural novels gets adapted and moved to Canada (for tax shelter purposes and, voila, the reason for its inclusion into this series) with Donald Sutherland (who seemed to alternate at this time between interesting — even great — cinematic projects where he gave his all, to take-the-money-and-run shiite that he’d noticeably sleepwalked through — fortunately, Blood Relatives leans heavily towards being one of the former) playing, in low-key style, the cop assigned to navigate through a perverted underbelly of not just outside pedophiles and offenders, but ultimately internecine and perverse family secrets to uncover the murderer.
French director Chabrol creates an effective underlying sense of sickness to the urban landscape with the film feeling close in sensibility to that of an earlier Italian giallo — 1972’s What Have you Done to Solange? springs immediately to mind — and a grand finale that is intriguingly odd to the point of being experimental (including shots of the performers, in the middle of a dark, violent confrontation, acting in slow motion even though it’s shot regular speed) and, while not being entirely successful, leans towards the heightened artificial approach reminiscent of a De Palma moment.
Donald Pleasance nicely shows up in a small but memorable part as a momentary suspect who, it turns out, didn’t commit the murder, but is pretty despicable in his own right.
It’s way too clear early on who the murderer is, and while the film never quite reaches the heights of the best of the giallo films, or matches the visual splendor of De Palma’s (or a ton of giallo films’) most inspired moments, Chabrol does maintain a creepy and effective mise en scene throughout… and provides just another reason for the discerning genre fan to celebrate that this peculiar tax shelter period happened in Canada at all.