Blood Ritual No. 1

Blood Ritual No. 1 is a short film which borrows the aesthetic language of kitsch horror cinema to explore themes of ritual, mental illness, and personal growth and transformation.

Blood Ritual No. 1 was created in collaboration with KJ Sweet. The piece is inspired by both artists undergoing personal transformations: Eliza had recently begun seeking out hormone-replacement therapy, a prospect she was both excited and terrified by, while KJ started taking antidepressant medication during the filming of the piece.

The use of blood in the film was drawn from Eliza’s struggle with a phobia of needles and blood-drawing, which had proved a major obstacle to her in the past. Although the ritual depicted in Blood Ritual No. 1 may seem dark and frightening, the piece intends to depict the process of facing one’s fears and emerging transformed. For many marginalised people, especially those suffering from trauma and mental illness, dark imagery and symbols can often provide a source of comfort.

In Blood Ritual No. 1, medicine is seen as a transformative force. Whether in the form of gender-affirming treatments like hormone therapy, or the power of psychiatric medications — such as Eliza’s prescriptions whose bottles are burned as candles over the course of the film — to allow people to grow and to change their lives for the better. But this powerful force is often out of the reach of those who need it the most, whether due to financial limitations, personal fears and psychological limitations, or medical gatekeeping. The film considers the occult as a hypothetical way to reclaim control over this transformative power, presenting a vision of a world in which black magic, in the form of the titular blood ritual, can stand in place of the life-changing power of medicine.

Many thanks to Gene Frank, Menachem Lattke, Maggie Stanger, and Marilyn Boatwright for appearing in this film, and to Emma Sonder, for supplementary cinematography.