Blood Simple (1984)


Blood Simple is the closest the Coens have ever come to making a straight-up horror flick, which is no doubt why I hold it in such high regard. The inventive gore is exceptional. So many wince-inducing moments. The Coens have always had a penchant for memorable screen violence where bullets, knives or other less-traditional implements are used as weapons but end up doing unexpected damage. Steve Buscemi getting shot in the side of his face in Fargo springs to mind or Matt Damon biting his tongue off in True Grit. Ground zero for all that stuff is M. Emmett Walsh getting his hand pinned to a windowsill in Blood Simple. The moment he removes the blade from his hand and it just slowly, quietly slides out gets me every time. The light catching the blade, Walsh’s sweaty face. So fucking good. That entire last set-piece in the apartment and the middle third dedicated solely to the disposal of an undead corpse are still among the best things in Joel and Ethan’s filmography.

It’s also fun to see the Coens with rough edges somewhat intact. The active, subjective camerawork inherited from Sam Raimi that runs throughout this movie and the cocky in-camera transitions are probably the showiest things they’ve ever done stylistically. And Sonenfeld’s neon pink, black and blue cinematography is just gorgeous. Frances McDormand too! Damn. One of my favourite debut films ever. Such a perfect little genre machine with some truly hideous and grotesque characters to boot. “I aint don’t anything funny!”

Watched on blu-ray.

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