Primitive cannibals sexually violate a brother and sister by a campfire ritual while feasting on entrails. A family in the throes of hatred and forbidden incest is torn apart between death and mercy. When these two powerful moments spur friction amongst the family, blood and betrayal runs like an unstoppable torrent. Animalistic urges take over and neither brother, sister, or father are safe from the cannibals or each other in a landscape of barren and sociopathic madness. Who will survive and come out on top of the internal upheaval when bloodlust is at its highest?
“Sangre Para la Carne,” or for the single-lingual, English-comprehending audiences, “Blood for Flesh,” is the 2019 ultraviolent and in your face gore-and-shock short-feature film from Mexican director Alex Hernández. Though completed in 2019, “Blood for Flesh” gains traction into the at-home market three years later, finding distribution on multiple independent physical media distributors as well as video streaming services. In his debut directorial, which doesn’t list the filmmaker as the screenwriter but is likely the architect of its abstract, Hernández caught the eye of another extreme auteur in “House of the Flesh Mannequins” and “Xpiation” director Domiziano Cristopharo and Italian-based TetroVideo to lift “Blood for Flesh,” fitting right into TetroVideo’s cache of erotic and extreme horror, into production and home video distribution. Shot in the arid depths of Tlaxcala, Mexico, labeled the epicenter in internationally trafficking female sex slaves to the United States, “Blood for Flesh” deluges itself with more unsavoriness, produced by Porfirio Hernández and Rodrigo Tellez Pérez.
To put it simply, “Blood for Flesh” is madness of unchecked immorality and to make something this deranged, Hernández would have needed a likeminded cast small enough to pull off callous scenes of rape, torture, and merciless death as well as aberrant scenes of incest surrounding three members of a truly messed up family. Beginning with the patriarch who is only know as the Father, played by Juan Manuel Martínez, whose subsequently becomes the violently persecuted by his own spawn after groveling at his daughter’s feet in a moment of bawling seeking forgiveness. Bound and gagged, beaten, and hung upside, the Father receives no mercy from his children and there’s no real revelation to why he’s become a subject of torture. Brother (Luis Navarro) and Sister (Erika López) fashion a complex relationship of courtship and collusion. As the Brother notes more than once in a divulging of truth the longing for his sister and his regretful reluctance in continuing the mistreatment of his father, its the Sister who seemingly has the upper hand, the hypnotic spell, over her love stricken brother and as Hernández dives into Sister’s unhinged scenes, especially where she marks her face and body with makeup, we come to realize that Sister just might not be right in the old cabeza. Now, how the cannibals – played by Christian Camara, Daniel Cruz, Enrique Diaz Duran, Aldo Palacios, and Marisela Plaza – fold into the family’s unraveling is a bit of a mystery but I’d like to think their naked savagery represents the rupture and hate between family and the cannibalism is kind of this dog-eat-dog mentality to come out on top by exploiting the other.
No matter which way you slice it, no matter how sharp the blade divides the skin, the muscle, the meat, or the bone, making sense of “Blood for Flesh” will never, ever happen as the almost an hour runtime feature, setup into chapters, is a bundle of biting brutality possibly representing a wide variety of real-world complications. The non-linear structure formulates no sensical path from beginning to end as you’re plopped right into the family’s madness from minute one and though I’m no stranger to undisguised abstract art in indie film, I can usually piece together to symbolic impressions or the weave a clear justification for most scenes in arthouse horror. With “Blood for Flesh,” I’m about as lost as a 5-year-old in a mall whose wander off from his inattentive shopaholic mother perusing the hot deal clothes racks at JCPenney’s the day after Christmas. I watch as Erika López strip away her clothes and her character’s mortality in every scene, I ponder and consider Juan Manuel Martínez’s Father’s compulsive reactions to seek forgiveness as well as to be vindictive toward his off-color and off-their-rocker offspring, and I am beguiled by Luis Navarro’s need to be inside his sister and, yet I feel nowhere near grounded to “Blood for Flesh’s” message if there is even one to be grounded to. Maybe we’re not supposed to connect with such corrosive content in what’s supposed to be just purely unabated shock content to rock the core of typicality. The cannibal scenes seem to be just an object of the director’s fascination with the ugly side of tribal horrors in a stereotyped rendition that depict them as nothing more than basal beasts that take what they want without an out of compassion and my mind continues to lean toward that high degree of barbarism to equate to a family built upon by hate, loathing, and individual interests.
“Blood for Flesh” could have easily fit in the catalogue of other extreme and underground horror labels, but this experimental purge of images and sins has found a home at SRS Cinema on the company’s Nightmare Fuel banner DVD distributed by MVD Visual. The single layer, region free, and unrated DVD is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio that decompresses content around 5-6 Mbps, hovering around par for the course when considering DVD picture quality. Generally, the cinematography is bleak, like it’s content, with muted coloring or shot in the dark to avoid any colorful hues. Only when stark red filters are used, which is only one or two scenes, is when color unloads in every inch and corner of the frame. There’s some aliasing and banding in certain scenes that cause momentary distortion that make it hard to delineate exactly what you’re looking act – is it an open and bloody slit or gash or is a cheeseburger? That’s always a fun game to play. The Spanish language audio tracks come in two formats – a PCM Stereo 2.0 and a Dolby Digital 2.0. The PCM is, again, muted with a lack of robust quality the Dolby Digital has much more vigor in all the sub-tracks. Unfortunately, the pieced together soundbites lack creativity and are poorly spliced together that continuously drop off in an instant on the backend. The forced English subtitles synch okay and are captioned well. Bonus features include a filmmaker’s commentary track, interviews with the cast that come with awful Spanglish translations, and the film’s trailer. If Domiziano Cristopharo saw something unique in Alex Hernández, I have yet to see it as I’m not sold on the director’s fringe horror film that aims to just be randomize acts of violence for 59 minutes.