Dark Blood

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Dark Blood
Dark Blood.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Sluizer
Produced by
Written by Jim Barton
Music by Florencia di Concilio
James Michael Taylor
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by Martin Walsh
Michiel Reichwein
  • Scala Productions (1993)
  • Fine Line Features (1993)
  • Sluizer Films (2012)
Release dates
  • September 27, 2012 (2012-09-27) (private audience, NFF)
Running time
86 minutes
  • United States
  • Netherlands
Language English

Dark Blood is a 2012 American-Dutch thriller film directed by George Sluizer, written by Jim Barton, and starring River Phoenix, Judy Davis, and Jonathan Pryce. The film was not completed due to the death of Phoenix shortly before the end of the project (it would also be the final film made by Sluizer) and remained unfinished for 19 years. It was the last movie to feature the late River Phoenix and the only one where Phoenix himself played the villain.

It premiered to a private guest audience on September 27, 2012 at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands. The film was shown twice more, publicly, on October 2, 2012 at the festival. It was shown at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2013, the Miami International Film Festival in March 2013, the Split Film Festival in September 2013, and the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival in April 2014.

The film follows Boy (Phoenix), a young widower, who retreats to the desert after his wife dies of radiation following nuclear tests near their home. Boy is waiting for the end of the world and carves Kachina dolls, believing they contain magical powers. A couple, Harry (Pryce) and Buffy (Davis) travel to the desert on a second honeymoon in an attempt to save their marriage. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and the couple is rescued by Boy. Boy holds them prisoner because of his desire for Buffy and his ambition to create a better world with her.[1]


The movie begins with Harry (Pryce), an up-and-coming actor, and his wife Buffy (Davis) on their "second honeymoon". After staying overnight at a motel, the owner (Black) informs Harry of previous nuclear testing taking place in the town. The following day, their Bentley car eventually breaks down, leading them to run out of water in the middle of the desert. Harry has the idea to stay put with their car rather than to look for help. While Harry sleeps in the back seat, Buffy notices a light in the distance and follows it, leading her to the front door of a barn belonging to a widower named Boy (Phoenix). After mentioning he is 1/8 Hopi Native American, Boy reveals a cave filled with candles and voodoo dolls that he believes have magical powers, which he spends his time making Kachina dolls, waiting for the world to end.

During their stay, Buffy and Boy become attracted to each other, angering Harry. Harry tells Boy to leave her alone while on a shooting hunt. The two have an argument and Boy retreats, leaving Harry to find his way back. Boy later attempts to shoot him only to miss. Eventually, the couple become aware that Boy will not let them leave.

After a couple of violent outbursts from Boy, including an act of seducing Buffy in his cave, Buffy decides to sleep with Boy to entice him to let the couple leave, an act that proves futile. At one point, Harry is punished by Boy, after hitting him with a crowbar, by means of a kangaroo court; Boy locks Harry in a dark shed where he later witnesses Buffy removing her clothes in the shack. Outraged by these events, Harry attacks Boy with an axe only for Boy to block the axe's blow with his rifle above his head. However, unable to withstand Harry's strength, the axe hits Boy knocking him to the ground. In act of self-defense Harry is forced to fatally wound Boy's dog when it tries to attack him. Boy gets to his feet, telling Harry that he has never wanted to kill a man before, his finger on the trigger of the rifle. Boy then collapses from a bleeding head wound.

Later, Harry and Buffy's car is delivered to the shack by a group of Native American mechanics from a nearby town; Harry does not believe Boy when he offers this information. A short time later, Boy dies from his injury. The Native Americans carry Boy and his dead dog into the shack and proceed to burn it down, telling Harry and Buffy to leave.



Dark Blood consisted of roughly five weeks of on location shooting in Torrey, Utah and was scheduled to complete three weeks of filming interior scenes in Los Angeles, California on a sound stage. Filming was only 80% finished before Phoenix's death on October 31, 1993. Production halted while insurers and financiers tried to determine if the movie could be completed, but with important scenes still needing to be shot the film was abandoned on November 18, 1993.[2] For the 2012 release, roughly four to six missing scenes were replaced with Sluizer providing narration.

It was revealed in October 2011 that director George Sluizer had held onto the footage, fearing it would be destroyed, and that he had reedited the material and believed that with some adjustments a completed film could be released in 2012. It was speculated that Sluizer would ask Phoenix's younger brother Joaquin Phoenix to dub River's voice. The Phoenix family made it clear that they would not participate in the project, saying in a statement, "In regard to releasing River's last film, Joaquin Phoenix and his family have not been in communication with the director nor will they participate in any way.”[3]

On May 18, 2012, a trailer for the film and an interview with Sluizer were released on YouTube.[4][5] The film premiered to an invited audience on September 27, 2012, at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands.[6] It had its international premiere out of competition at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.[7]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received four positive reviews and one negative one, for a score of 80%, with an average rating of 6/10.[8]

Geoffrey Macnab from The Guardian gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, stating that "Dark Blood is fragmentary, uneven and downright odd in parts but it also has huge curiosity value. The director's solution for bridging the considerable gaps is to read out descriptions of what is missing. It's a simple but surprisingly effective tactic. His narration ensures that the film is just about coherent."[9] Ard Vijn from Twitch says the movie is "almost polished enough to be regarded as a finished film. Almost. The images, music and actors definitely make watching it a worthwhile exercise."[10]


  1. ^ "Dark Blood – Dutch Film Festival". September 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (December 17, 1993). "Must the Show Go On?". Web. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ Fleming, Mike (October 20, 2011). "River Phoenix's Family Wants Nothing To Do With Re-Release Of Unseen Film 'Dark Blood'". Deadline.com. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Dark Blood trailer – River Phoenix at CineCrowd.com". YouTube. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "George Sluizer on Dark Blood – CineCrowd.com". YouTube. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Roxborough, Scott (August 1, 2012). "River Phoenix's Last Film 'Dark Blood' to Debut at Film Festival in September". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Berlinale 2013: Competition Now Complete". berlinale. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  8. ^ "Dark Blood". rottentomatoes.com. 3 January 1993. 
  9. ^ Geoffrey Macnab (October 1, 2012). "Dark Blood – first look review". Web. The Guardian. Retrieved October 14, 2012. 
  10. ^ Ard Vijn (October 3, 2012). "Review: George Sluizer's Unfinished River Phoenix Film, DARK BLOOD". Web. Twitch. Retrieved October 14, 2012. 

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