Out of the Past: “Blood Simple” (1984)

Blood Simple is about murder and miscalculations. The Cohen Brother’s 1984 film debut is an emotionally brutal and wonderfully twisted noir. If it wasn’t for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre like nauseating and horror visceral quality of the film, much of the happenstances in the film border on being blackly comical,.

The Cohen’s takes us to their favorite locale for films, the American Southwest; somewhere in Texas to be specific, or not to be that specific. In either case, Abby (Francis McDormand) married to a dance hall owner Marty (Dan Hedaya) is having an affair with one of the bartenders Ray (John Getz). Marty finds out about the affair through a shifty, corpulent P.I. (M. Emmet Walsh).  Marty becomes obsessed with the idea of Abby’s unfaithfulness and hires the P.I. to kill both Abby and Ray.  The P.I backstabs Marty; killing and robbing the deceased dance hall operator.

As one of the line from The Four Tops song, “It’s The Same Old Song” states and which features so prominently in the film, “it’s the same old song, but with a different meaning since you been gone.” The Cohen Brother’s use the outline of previous noirs, but give their own brand of dark humor, the McGuffin hidden under a rotting fish, the flop sweat inducing body disposal scene, and a devastating ending for all involved. The film isn’t based in Freudian sexual obsessions, but a series of errors.

Blood Simple is a film that Tobe Hooper would have made in his heyday. There are more nods to slasher films like Halloween or Chainsaw Massacre than to noirs of the past. The handheld quality of the film gives it a situational immediacy found in the films mentioned above. The films stand on its own as a unique entry into modern noirs and jumpstarted the careers of the Cohen Brother’s whom are still going strong after twenty plus years. If Blood Simple tells us one thing- In the Southwest no one can hear you scream.

Paul Gilbert is a 23 year old recent graduate student of the University of Rhode Island from which he received a BA double major in history and film studies. Originally from Philadelphia. Paul now lives in Washington D.C. He first found his passion for film in VHS stores when he was younger and has been studying, examining, and analyzing film and the history of film ever since. Paul has a second interest in the world of comics, video games and books. He is an avid connoisseur and frequent attendee at Comic Con and Wizard World events at sites around the country. His interest in those particular genres stem from the ways in which popular culture utilizes a variety of medium to convey stories, ideas, and messages.