This Halloween is the 20th anniversary of the death of River Phoenix.
At the time of his death, aged 23, Phoenix had been working on the film Dark Blood, which was only partially complete and would not be released for almost 20 years. Now on the film festival circuit, I had the recent opportunity to view it. I’m glad I did.
Travelling through Arizona for a film audition, actor Harry Fleming (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife Buffy (Judy Davis) decide to honeymoon in the desert.
Their car breaks down on the journey, leaving them both stranded. There, they encounter a young man called ‘Boy’ (Phoenix), living on an abandoned nuclear test site. At first he appears friendly, welcoming the pair into his home and bringing their car to a mechanic in the morning. But when he starts making advances to Buffy, his intentions become more sinister.
Dark Blood will always be an unfinished film. A few scenes were never shot and director George Sluizer provides narration to bridge the gap between existing and missing scenes. The cast (particularly Pryce) are all very good and it’s surreal seeing Phoenix in what is, technically, a new movie.
Dark Blood would’ve been another strong addition to River Phoenix’s career. Sadly, it is instead a poignant conclusion to it.