Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
I was looking for some more Asian horror to watch this month. When I saw some positive user reviews for Blood Flower on Shudder, I decided to give it a try. Also, I can’t remember if I’ve seen a horror film from Malaysia before. Let’s see if this was worth a punt.
Blood Flower is currently available on Shudder in the UK.
Iqbal is the teenage son of a pair of exorcists, who has inherited his mother’s psychic powers. When his mother is killed during an exorcism, Iqbal’s father places a magical constraint upon his son’s abilities to prevent him from meeting the same fate.
This is all undermined when Iqbal’s father agrees to water a neighbour’s plants. These are not ordinary plants, however. Many are carnivorous, and even the less sinister ones are rare and unusual. The oddest part of the hothouse apartment, however, is the locked room with a protective magical seal on the door. Not a standard feature of most hothouses.
Despite being told not to, Iqbal borrows the apartment keys and shows the weird plants off to his friends. Inevitably, the friends break into the forbidden room, where only Iqbal can see a shadowy entity trapped in a beam of light.
With the seal broken, people from all over the apartment block start dying in hideous ways or becoming possessed by the evil spirit. Will the demonic entity triumph, or will Iqbal be able to reclaim his mystic exorcist powers and save the day? Let’s face it — you don’t need to watch the film to know the answer.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love seeing the classic tropes of horror through the lenses of other cultures. Blood Flower is filled with the kinds of demonic possessions and exorcisms we’ve seen a thousand times, with the only real difference being the religion of the exorcists. It turns out that just substituting Koranic verses for Latin chants doesn’t actually make this very different from the fictionalised Catholic exorcism rites we’re more used to seeing in horror movies.
Similarly, the djinn here work much the same as demons in western films. It’s interesting contrasting this with something like Under the Shadow, where the djinn felt like something different and truly dangerous.
After complaining about a few of this month’s films spending too long setting things up before getting to the good stuff, I shall now do the opposite. I contain multitudes. It’s neat that Blood Flower plunges us straight into horror, but we’re expected to care about characters we don’t even know yet. As a result, there’s no real tension or poignancy when we’re clearly being expected to feel such things.
Blood Flower is a real wasted opportunity. A lot of talent has clearly gone into this film. The makeup effects are terrific and the cinematography is slick and polished. A number of the individual scenes are imaginative, although not as many as I might have liked. Overall, however, it feels flat and unengaging.
While the overall film may not have worked for me, I did appreciate how nasty it was willing to get. Appropriately, given its name, Blood Flower does not shy away from bloody violence. There is enough murder, mutilation, and cannibalism to satisfy the most hardened gorehound. One scene, in particular, in which a ghost feasts upon the remains of a baby, is the kind of thing that might have sparked a moral panic in the 1980s.
And yet too many of these scenes of horror feel like they were lifted wholesale from The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, The Sixth Sense or even Supernatural. While homages aren’t exactly uncommon in horror, this was more like a wedding band playing covers. Blood Flower is at its best when it tries to be its own thing, but such moments are too few. What we are left with is an unfocused story that tries to pack in too many shocks at the expense of any tension or emotional engagement.
I suspect that Blood Flower will be the goriest, most grotesque film I’ll see this month. It’s just a shame that doesn’t make it a good one.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!