Major spoilers ahead for Blood. You’ve been warned.



As the premise for a movie, the whole “parent-forced-to-desperate-measures-to-save-child” thing is probably one of the most overused. However, once in a while, a flick comes along that reminds us why the idea is so effective — a flick like Blood.

The story begins with a familiar setup: a single-parent family moving into an old house. In this case, it’s mom Jess (Michelle Monaghan), daughter Tyler (Skylar Morgan-Jones) and son Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong). Jess is amidst a bitter custody battle with her ex, Patrick (Skeet Ulrich). He gets to keep the house with his new girlfriend (Danika Frederick) and baby, so she moves the kids to the house she grew up in, which is not surprisingly old and rundown.

Finlay Wojtak-Hissong as Owen and Michelle Monaghan as Jess in Blood

Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Michelle Monaghan in Blood

Jess is understandably stressed and nervous about being a recovering drug addict. She knows the courts will punish her for anything she does wrong. So she gets a tad hysterical when young Owen decides he’s going out to the barn to jump off an overhang into a pile of hay. Owen apologizes, but it’s clear that Jess is terrified she will lose the kids.

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As for Tyler, she acts like the typical movie tween — pissed off about the divorce and having to live in an icky old house. As for the dog, Pippin, he does not like the house either. More specifically, he does not like the woods beyond the house. Oh, if only every family in horror movies heeded the dog’s warning. There’d be a lot fewer horror movies.

The next day while Jess is at work as a nurse, she sees a patient named Helen (June B. Wilde), who’s there to find out that her cancer has returned. More on her later. Meanwhile, back at the house, Tyler and Owen head out to the nearby lake to go fishing. But they find the lake has dried up, with a creepy-looking dead tree in the middle of it.

They also see a lot of bones sticking up out of the mud. Pippin goes running toward the tree and gets stuck in the quicksand-like mud. Owen gets stuck too, but Tyler pulls them out. Jess isn’t too happy when the kids and the dog come back covered in mud.

Skeet Ulrich as Patrick in Blood

Skeet Ulrich in Blood

Jess makes dinner, and it’s not how Owen likes it — little things she should know, but doesn’t. Jess apologizes and says she knows that their dad was there for them when she wasn’t. But she’s there now and promises not to let them down. Meanwhile, Pippin’s still barking at the woods and as soon as Jess opens the door he takes off. Owen goes running after him but gets stopped by the barbed wire surrounding the property.

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Later that night, Owen’s still outside waiting for Pippin to come back. When Jess tries to talk to him, he gets mad and says she doesn’t care about Pippin because Patrick bought him. The next day, Jess and Patrick have a meeting with their lawyers which quickly devolves into an obscenity-filled shouting match. When she gets home, she finds out from Tyler that Owen’s gone looking for Pippin. Jess finds him a good way from home, putting “lost dog” flyers in mailboxes. She’s angry at him, and he’s just as angry at her.

That night, Pippin returns. Everyone rushes out to meet him, but something’s wrong. His eyes glow, and his head’s down, growling like he’s rabid. But before they can get away Pippin attacks Owen, biting his leg and his neck. Jess has to fatally bash the dog in the head to get him to let go, and they rush Owen to the hospital.

When he wakes up the next morning, the first thing Owen says is that he’s hungry, but he doesn’t seem to like regular food. Jess has to go back to work and sees Helen, who’s understandably despondent. She asks Jess about helping her commit suicide. Jess, of course, refuses, but then she hears over the PA that Owen’s coding, and she runs out. She and Patrick are helpless as they watch him seizing on the floor. The doctors aren’t sure what’s wrong, but all indications are that it’s not rabies.

Pippin the dog in Blood

Pippin the dog in Blood

Jess takes the watch that night. When she steps out to take a phone call, Owen wakes up. He pulls his breathing tube out (yikes) and when Jess rushes back in, she’s horrified to see him drinking the bag of transfusion blood. She instinctively hides the bag when the doctors come in. Later, when she tries to feed him some breakfast, all he wants is more blood. But Jess flat-out refuses.

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Patrick shows up later, and the doctors tell him and Jess that the anemia he had somehow resolved itself. The puzzled doctors watch him happily hanging out with Tyler and say it’s an amazing recovery. But that night, Jess is alone there when Owen’s blood pressure drops again, and he starts relapsing.

Realizing why, she goes to the blood storage room and steals a bag, marking it damaged. When the staff leaves, she sneaks the bag in and gives it to him. Once Owen chugs it down, his condition immediately improves. Jess then takes him home, saying she can care for him there.

She steals more blood from storage, and while feeding him, Owen asks what’ll happen if things get bad again. Jess says she just needs time to figure out how to fix him. She tries seeking online advice from other doctors, but of course, they can’t help without actually examining him. Later, Jess finds Owen in the basement gorging himself on what little blood they had left. But when she goes back to the hospital, she finds they’ve changed the passcode in the blood storage room. She’s gotta figure something else out.  

Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) is in the hospital in Blood

Finlay Wojtak-Hissong in Blood

So Jess goes to the pet store and picks up a rabbit. She kills it and feeds Owen the blood, but it isn’t long before one rabbit becomes six because Owen’s chugging the blood like it’s water. Even so, it doesn’t work. He starts seizing again, and a desperate Jess cuts herself and lets him drink her blood.

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Again, he immediately improves, and Jess is relieved but tired from draining herself. So tired that the next day when Patrick shows up to take the kids, he notices how out of it she is. She gives Owen his backpack with a water bottle full of blood and tells him it must be their secret. Then, as soon as they leave, she collapses from exhaustion.

But she still has to go to work, putting tons of sugar in her coffee. While she’s there, EMTs bring Helen in. She’s overdosed, saying she wants to die, which presents Jess with a clever and terrible solution. She tries to take some of Helen’s blood but can’t get enough time alone with her.

Jess keeps draining herself, becoming so out of it that she overlooks a pan on fire in the kitchen. Tyler has to snap her out of it, and Jess realizes she’s got to find some other way to get more blood. She goes back to the hospital to Helen’s room, but she’s been released. Jess finds her at the bus stop outside and offers to take her home.

While in the car, Helen says someone left her some flowers and it made her feel hopeful. To Jess’ dismay, she’s not wanting to kill herself anymore. But Jess has already made the decision and drugs her. As Jess brings Helen into the house, Owen stares out the window at them with a starving focus, and it’s clear he’s turning into something less human.

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Helen wakes up gagged and tied up in the basement. Jess tries to explain the situation, saying she’ll do anything to save Owen. She explains how Helen is the perfect solution: she’s dying, and she has no family. Jess thanks her for her involuntary help as she hooks up an IV.

Jess (Michelle Monaghan) keeps Helen (June B. Wilde) prisoner in her basement in Blood

June B. Wilde, Michelle Monaghan in Blood

Time passes, Jess keeps draining Helen — and Owen keeps getting hungrier. It doesn’t take long for Tyler to get curious enough about the lock on the basement door that she sneaks in through the window. Tyler’s shocked to find Helen, but Jess finds them and stops Tyler from running. Jess and Owen explain the situation to Tyler: blood is the only thing that helps him. And until Jess can figure out what else to do, they have to keep supplying it.

While the kids go with Patrick to do some fishing, he asks Tyler how Jess is. She tells him about the kitchen fire, saying she’s just tired from all the stress. Meanwhile, the police show up to ask Jess about Helen as a missing persons case. Jess just says she gave her a ride home, as Helen wakes up in the basement, yelling, but they can’t hear her.

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While Jess is out picking the kids up, Helen manages to get free. She takes off into the woods as Jess returns but then runs right into the barbed wire, impaling herself. Owen finds her, and by the time Jess gets there, he’s feeding on poor Helen like the full-on vampire he’s become. Now, they’re all complicit in Helen’s death.

Presumably picking up on what Pippin was so freaked out about, Tyler ventures out the next morning to the lake and spots a hole in the dead tree. It’s dark inside, like really dark. Then, Tyler sees something that scares her.

Skylar Morgan Jones as Tyler in Blood

Skylar Morgan Jones in Blood

As Jess drains herself of more blood, Owen stares at her with that weird glow in his eyes, just like the dog. Then Patrick shows up with the cops and CPS. Owen hasn’t been to school, and the doctors keep calling him. He can’t trust Jess anymore, so he’s taking the kids. Tyler returns and tries to tell Jess about the tree, but the cops take her away.

When they get to Patrick’s house, his girlfriend tells them to stay quiet cause the baby’s sleeping. While the grownups are talking about Jess probably being back on drugs, a hungry Owen goes into the baby’s room. He stands over her, ready to pounce, but Tyler grabs him just in time, telling him he’s got to control himself.

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Getting an idea, Tyler steals a lighter and fluid from the garage. She and Owen sneak out and take a bike back to the lake. A furious Patrick returns to Jess’ house to find her passed out on the couch. While Patrick looks all over the house, Jess figures out where they’ve gone and runs after them.

Tyler tells Owen that burning the tree down might kill whatever infected him; however, Owen’s too far gone now. He looks at Tyler like she’s a buffet and tackles her. She has to kick him in the face to get away. Jess hears her screaming and finds them wrestling in the mud by the tree.

Owen (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) attacks in Blood

Finlay Wojtak-Hissong in Blood

Jess rescues Tyler and tries to subdue Owen. But he’s making terrible, monster-like noises, and Jess realizes he’s not human anymore. He tries to attack her, and with a horrible, anguished resolve, Jess pushes him down into the mud, drowning him in it. Then, Jess tells Tyler they can’t ever tell anyone what happened.

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They have a funeral for Owen, and his death is ruled an accident, but Jess loses custody of Tyler. During a supervised visit, Jess tells Tyler it’s all her fault. But before she leaves, Tyler hugs her, saying she did the right thing.

The flick ends with Jess burning the tree down. Then, in a mid-credits scene, we see her playing with a new dog — a dog that starts staring at the woods, whining. Uh-oh.


The vampire tale is another one of those ideas that’s pretty worn out. Enough that just the mention of the word induces justified eye rolls. But Blood handles the concept with subtlety, grounding the story in a real-world situation. In focusing mainly on Jess, director Brad Anderson puts the majority of the heavy lifting on Michelle Monaghan’s shoulders, and she handles the weight beautifully. Monaghan infuses Jess with a relatable weariness and fear so that when she crosses the line by kidnapping Helen, we understand why she does it even though we’re horrified at it — just as Jess is horrified at herself.

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The flick does have a significant issue: barely any attention is given to the origin of Owen’s vampirism. We get that there’s something scary and evil inside that dead tree, but that’s it. We never see what attacks Pippin, and we never see what Tyler sees. Trying to keep the story so realistic loses needed substance. Skeet Ulrich’s talents are also largely wasted — his character has very little to do except rant and rave.

But both of the kid actors do a good job conveying their innocence and terror, and the visual effects on Owen as he gradually transforms are understated yet effective. So, while Blood is not the most terrifying horror flick or even the best vampire story, it’s solid in its strong performances and successful in showing us how we can lose our humanity in trying to save a loved one — which is just as frightening as any monster.

Blood is now available on most streaming platforms, including Prime Video.

Blood poster featuring Michelle Monaghan screaming while on her knees.

Directed by:  Brad Anderson

Written by: Will Honley

Release Date: January 31, 2023

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 hr 48 min

Distributor:  Vertical Entertainment

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Lorinda Donovan
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