A bad moon is rising in “Bloodworth.” The misfired hillbilly gothic stirs up a murky brew of old resentments, youthful hope and backwoods superstition in the story of an ill-fated and symbolically named Tennessee family. As members of that clan, Kris Kristofferson, Val Kilmer and Dwight Yoakam are compelling in beautifully lived-in, vanity-free performances, but the drama’s escalating dread fizzles in a farcical pileup of disaster.
Originally titled “Provinces of Night,” after its source novel by William Gay, the film concerns the return to Tennessee of musician E.F. Bloodworth (Kristofferson), who left his wife (Frances Conroy) and three boys 40 years earlier. Two sons (Kilmer and Yoakam) remain embroiled in misadventures, while brother Brady (screenwriter W. Earl Brown) turns his focus — and his hexes — on the matter of punishment for Pa’s perceived sins.
Director Shane Dax Taylor uses muddled flashbacks to suggest, but never make clear, dark secrets skulking around the action.
Bloodworth finds common ground with grandson Fleming, evidenced by guitar strumming and words of ostensible country wisdom. An aspiring writer, Fleming is meant to be the only undamaged member of the family, but in Reece Daniel Thompson’s unconvincing performance he comes off more like a distant cousin dropped off for the weekend, sapping the story’s coming-of-age thread of any struggle or fire.
Hilary Duff acquits herself well as the prostitute’s daughter he falls for, but their romance is, like much of the film, the stuff of formula rather than substance.
“Bloodworth.” MPAA rating: R for language, some violence and drug content. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At Laemmle’s Sunset 5, West Hollywood.