Four cousins hook up to head out on a road trip, visiting the grave of a grandmother on the anniversary of her death and squabbling with old acquaintances in BLOOD COUSINS. This first-time feature indie effort from down Texas way is put out by the group that calls itself Comedia A Go-Go, with Regan Arevalos, Jess Castro and Larry Garza all sharing the writing/directing credits.
Three of the adventurers seem to be taking their voyage in good spirits but Stevie (Joel Settles) is often in a different space - he starts experiencing flashbacks of a troubling experience from his youth that he can't really comprehend in the present. His brother and cousins are oblivious to his concerns, preferring to banter about video games, chicks, and which junk food will be chugging down their gullets next. Things remain fairly civil until after the cemetery visit when they crash the home of some relatives. From there, the tone of the film shifts from lowish-brow humour to heavier dramatic interplay and, finally, some nasty business in the gruesome horror department.
The most impressive aspect of the movie (aside from sharp production values re: videotography and editing) is the shift from lightweight comedy to the heavier dealings that emerge with a jolt in the last twenty minutes of the film. Other hybrid genre flicks I have witnessed have not done as effectively in this regard (see Make-Out With Violence as an example of such crossbred attempts). Unfortunately, one has to sit through the first hour to get to this payoff and that's where Blood Cousins feels like you've been stuck as the fifth wheel in a group who can't get away from. The personality of Larry Gaza's character of Von, the crudest in the group, is the one element that breathes life in the earlier going but also serves to illustrate that his colleagues, while likeable and non-irritating, are just not that interesting. The so-called comedy is also largely ineffective, consisting of predictable gags and subject matters.
In the end, whether a film is labelled as low-budget indie or big studio tentpole, one question has to be answered - was it worth it? Blood Cousins serves more as an impressive demo reel of a group that seems to have some undeniable potential going forward but are still in class, rather than having graduated to the mastered feature world. (The results of this effort can be witnessed by the curious with a trip to the productions website where the download is available.)