When it comes to international horror films, very few streaming services do the subgenre justice like Shudder does. Offering a vast selection of top-quality international movies, the horror-centric platform has added some game-changing genre giants over the last few years, including Indonesia’s Impetigore, Mexico’s Tigers Are Not Afraid, and Guatemala’s La Llorona. The most recent addition to Shudder comes from Malaysia, with Dain Said’s Blood Flower. The film was also written by Said, along with Ben Omar and Nandita Solomon, and stars Idan Aedan, Bront Palarae, and Nadiya Nissa.
Blood Flower follows Iqbal, a young teen who has medium-like healer abilities, and can sense and see nearby demonic forces, just as his mother can. When a particularly nasty force infiltrates Iqbal’s home and attacks him and his mother, Iqbal must hone and use his abilities to keep the evil at bay, and protect his remaining family members.
Not Your Average Exorcism Film
The biggest difference between Blood Flower and your regular run-of-the-mill exorcism films is the use of a child main character, giving the story a coming-of-age feel when exploring Iqbal’s development of his abilities and reliance on his small, intimate group of friends. Idan Aedan shines in his role as Iqbal, and it’s nice to see more of a medium’s point of view than a typical exorcist storyline.
A child dealing with the grief of losing his mother to demonic forces, as well as the pressure to continue on her legacy of keeping evil at bay, was a nice touch from the writing team, and makes the all-around story direction much more interesting.
A Solid Scare Factor
Blood Flower‘s opening scene is quite shocking, as we don’t expect Iqbal’s mother to fall so quickly to a demonic presence. Throughout the film, tasteful jump scares, mostly well-done visual effects, and great set design are used to perpetuate the uneasy feeling of the story. The surprises don’t feel cheap, and they add to the creepiness, rather than creating fearful moments that don’t feel inauthentic.
While there are some cheesy monster noises throughout the film, haunting cinematography and a dynamic, building musical score help keep the intensity moving, particularly in moments when Iqbal is experiencing interactions with evil presences throughout the story, that others can’t see. With that being said, there were a few strange CG moments layered over some practical makeup work that took away from some particularly intense scenes.
The film does a great job of keeping its cultural consistency, while obviously taking inspiration from popular Western films, like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense or Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone. Especially when it comes to the main character having gifts (curses?) that their parent or another adult couldn’t possibly understand or support. Some of the gore moments in Iqbal’s visions go much harder than either of those movies, so if you have an issue with blood, and particularly, baby blood, you may want to avoid this one.
An Unpredictable Ending
One of the most refreshing aspects of Blood Flower is its unpredictable final act. The film changes up its style a bit, giving off an almost Evil Dead Rise vibe in its finale. It brings forth some of the more campy possession scene elements we’re used to in other, similar films, and keeps an emotional thread flowing throughout the story, while bringing a particularly bloody and brutal close to the overarching possession tale. The finish is mostly solid, offering some great, otherworldly visuals, but in its attempt to be unpredictable and different, the ending actually gets a little too convoluted for its own good.
The movie is still well worth the watch, though, and joins Shudder’s long list of competent international horror movies. Blood Flower is available to stream on Shudder on Friday, September 8th, 2023. You can watch the trailer below: