Feature Screengem

Screengem: The Suspended Water Drop in Blood Simple


“Drip, drip, drip, drip … I shouldn’t laugh but I know I’m a failure in your eyes …”

So sing mad Ayrshire rockers Biffy (f*****!) Clyro in their melancholic Black Chandelier, a dark song about light and shades.

The celebrated Coen brothers’ much-darker-than-light first feature, Blood Simple (1984), ends with a character lying dying, gutshot on a bathroom floor, watching a water drop on a sink pipe, ready to drip – SPLOOSH! ­– like one last, cold twist of fate.

The Coens, Joel and Ethan, writer/directors of Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and A Serious Man, specialise in darkly comic and trickily mindbending neo-noirs, near misses and genre benders, meticulously worked out from beginning to end yet ultimately enigmatic and elusive – like that poised, Damoclean droplet. Is it a message from the God(s), or contentiously coincidental condensation?

The brothers’ movies are clever, knowing, sardonic and often exclusive – spun wickedly through the mill of their kooky quirkiness that can keep at arm’s length everyone “not in on the joke”. But the many and varied vagaries of human existence are there in all their ragged glory, and the often downbeat milieu can be enlivened by layers of hidden delights.

When the brilliant boys adapted Cormac McCarthy’s cathartic and courageous modern Western, No Country For Old Men, they plunged us into a darkness only serious artists can properly illuminate (and picked up the Best Picture Oscar).

The siblings were asked for some insight into that adaptation process, and Joel answered: “One of us types into the computer while the other holds the spine of the book open flat. That’s why there needs to be two of us.”


There is, of course, much more to it than that. And when sleazy private dick Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) stares until he’s almost skelly (a word those aforementioned Ayrshire rockers would understand) at that drip drip dripping drip, he seems to see much more than just a droplet of H2O and the simple effects, or not, of gravity.

Somewhere in the Coen universe, that drip is still waiting to drop, as their canon is full of heroes and villains, unfortunates and unholies, screwed tight in a vice of existential angst and held there, making ’em dance.

Life in a Coen movie can suck. Fat men howl and Hell is other people, Donny. Families are a curse and babies are a swarming, attacking mini army. Not only will your car be stolen and torched, your Creedence tapes will be lost in it – that’s a given, Dude.

Suddenly, the cow’s on the roof, or you’re plummeting 44 floors (45 counting the mezzanine), only to be suddenly jerked and held there, time suspended – is it a moment of blessed relief, or will you be left dangling on the end of the puppetmaster’s string, waiting to drop, like that drip, drip, drip, drip?

By Callum Reid

Callum Reid is an experienced film and music writer, and an award-winning production journalist. Cult, Horror, Classic Hollywood. Rush, Tool, Converge. And the occasional power ballad. Read him at,,, and in Beneficial Shock!

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