Littered with monstrous apparitions and gruesome deaths, this latest horror film from seasoned Malaysian filmmaker Dain Said is also haunted by growing pains. Blessed – and cursed – with the same supernatural abilities possessed by his mother, young Iqbal (Idan Aedan) is torn between his power of exorcism and his desire to lead a normal teenage existence. Roaming the damp corridors of his dilapidated apartment complex where the creaky lift never works, Iqbal encounters terrors at every turn: horrifying undead souls with rotten teeth and bloodshot eyes.
In dramatising Iqbal’s constant state of unease, Blood Flower resorts to the unsophisticated medium of jump scares. For much of the film, Iqbal is too busy running away from a neverending succession of frightening premonitions and slithering ghosts that it’s difficult to gauge his inner emotions, or even his personality. While the visual effects are striking, especially during an extended exorcism sequence that dials the gore factor up to eleven, they also overshadow the more interesting narrative strands, such as the void left by a neglectful father, or the fragility of the nuclear family structure. It’s handsomely designed, even if the titular plant, with its ivory phallic shape, gets little screen time.
As Blood Flower trudges towards its conclusion, the film turns out to be a lacklustre trauma-as-plot horror. The final twist rests heavily on the terror that results from sexual violence against women, yet most of the female characters are barely developed; they seem to be defined by their victimisation rather than their own inner selves. Laden with an overstuffed plot that values gore over atmosphere and characterisation, the macabre ending feels like a cheap trick to add an unearned dose of shock.