How many movies have you seen where someone does something very bad, and then spends the rest of the film trying to cover it up, only to get into more and more trouble on the way? It’s a pretty tried and true plot. There isn’t anything exactly wrong with going that direction, obviously since we’ve seen it so many times. But it also makes it harder for such a story to make a mark for itself.
That’s the essential problem facing Blood On Her Name. Matthew Pope’s modest film opens on Leigh (Bethany Anne Lind) hovering over a recently deceased body. She is clearly not happy about this turn of events. She wraps the body and takes it to a pond for dumping but her conscience gets the better of her and she decides to anonymously return it to the dead guy’s people rather than have them think he ran off. And really, her problems begin there. Not so much with the murder, but with the feeling bad about it.
At only 83 minutes, there isn’t a ton to Blood On Her Name, but it takes a while to get going all the same. The first half-hour requires its protagonist to act shifty toward and lie to the entire support cast, making it hard to get into her corner. Its mystery structure doesn't help much either, as the audience is left guessing nearly as much as the other characters. It’s only once the plot opens up in the second act that things get interesting. The entire film rests on Lind’s shoulders, though she does get help from Will Patton in a nice supporting role. Lind is great in the film. She plays Leigh’s alternating iciness and warmth, as well as her many layers of tension and fear, very well, especially since she spends nearly the entire film lying to people.
And I don’t think she’s supposed to be playing a smart character, which is the most interesting choice this film makes (and it could also be total conjecture on my part). It doesn’t seem all that hard to get away with murder in Leigh’s backwoods town. Yet she screws it up at every turn. But even then it’s not certain because everyone else is very stupid as well. It can be frustrating at times, watching all these missteps seemingly for the same of plot and tension, but by the time we fully understand the crime and how it actually happened, we’re more or less invested in Leigh’s plight.
Oddly, Blood On Her Name reminded me most of a Sundance movie called The Death of Dick Long. Both are about pretty dumb people in a small town dealing with a death they’d like to keep secret. They mean well, but keep getting in their own way. The primary difference is Dick Long is a comedy filled with a variety of colorful characters who all kind of have their own thing going on. Blood On Her Name is deathly serious and focused only on one subject. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but in this case, there is a sense of identity the film lacks as a result.