FFrom Let the Right One In to What We Do in the Shadows, the domesticated wing of the vampire genre becomes overcrowded. So frequent Rian Johnson collaborator Noah Segan has done well to give himself a few inches of wiggle room in his directorial debut with a surprisingly soft, ruminating and haunting film about family and belonging. Focusing on an estranged father and daughter on the road, played by Segan herself and Victoria Moroles, it plays out almost like an undead Paper Moon.
Blood Relateds begins with a Near Dark-esque look as Segan’s biker-jacketed bum, Francis, makes a stop at a grocery store for carb wraps and hemoglobin. While checking into a motel to escape the daylight, he is attacked by stubborn teen Jane (Moroles), whose mother has just died in Idaho. He scoffs when she claims he passed through their town 15 years ago, the same age as her. But he starts to warm up when she tells him to wear sunscreen to go out during the day, and he’s certainly paying attention by the time she beats the motel clerk, who thinks she’s an underage prostitute, into a bloody mess. the wall. It’s Jane’s first kill.
Reluctant father Francis offers to return his daughter to her extended family in Nebraska. Their faltering attempts to forge a relationship – he lectures her about using a fork when eating raw ground beef (“You are not an animal”) – are as melancholic as they are funny. The underlying loneliness and need for relatives is exacerbated by his own story, which seems to go back to the Holocaust. Explaining the origins of “schlepping” to one victim, Francis joins The Fearless Vampire Killers in the (much less crowded) canon of Jewish undead (fuelled by clarinet klezmer on the soundtrack).
With his hoarse voice and partially misplaced eyes, Segan exploits his unsettling qualities in a deadpan performance that he, as a director, elevates with a pleasantly snappy, almost comic-book direction. That, and his finicky dialogue, show a similar sensitivity to friend Rian Johnson’s – as well as the thoughtful undercurrent that pulls us through some meandering stretches as the story sadly dies out.