Director Jeremy Saulnier made waves in 2007 with his debut feature Murder Party, a well-constructed, perhaps a little over-ambitious horror-comedy that was head and shoulders above most of the mainstream releases coming out that year. His return to the big screen is nothing short of astonishing: Blue Ruin is a taut, tight, incredibly tense but also laugh-out-loud funny revenge thriller the likes of which only come out once in a blue moon.
Dwight (Macon Blair in a terrific turn) is an outsider who lives out of a car on the beach, avoiding contact with other people, save for breaking into their homes from time to time to use their bathrooms and steal small necessities. However, the arrival of friendly police officer Eddy (Sidné Anderson) with some unexpected news sets Dwight on a path of vengeance and destruction that will engulf him and all those he knows.
Blue Ruin is best appreciated blind because the joy of the film is as reliant on the journey of Dwight as it is on the narrative twists. With a palette reminiscent of the loved-but-forgotten neo-noir Westerns of the 90s such as Red Rock West and Kill me Again, he paints the story of a resourceful everyman who becomes an avenger who finds himself out of his depth. With a beautiful synth score and immaculate sound design, the film ratchets up the tension, keeping the audience engrossed through a number of unexpected key sequences.
Within a much-appreciated 90-minute runtime, Saulnier, writing and directing, manages to create an entire world populated with wholly believable characters who face the consequences of their actions in dark and remarkable ways. Saulnier is also a skilful cinematographer (as movie-lovers can see in films such as the wonderful I Used To Be Darker and You Hurt My Feelings) and his visual style is striking, capturing the inane banality of Dwight’s journey with stops on the way for arresting imagery.
Using Macon Blair’s expressive face to full effect, Saulnier drags the journey on the vengeance trail kicking and screaming. What’s the most impressive, however, is his ability to mine incredibly funny dark humour during scenes of unbearable tension – a trait which he had demonstrated before in Murder Party.
Saulnier claims that he made Blue Ruin to prove that he wasn’t just a horror genre filmmaker – in fact during one of his festival appearances he admitted that he had to distance himself from Murder Party because no one would finance anything that was outside of horror. While that state of affairs is an indication of the general attitude towards genre filmmakers, Saulnier’s stellar effort in Blue Ruin will serve as a reminder that he is a talent to watch with the ability to strike across multiple genres.
Watch the trailer: