Blood Simple

by Logan Gion
Frances MacDormand Blood Simple Oblogatory

The Basics

Blood Simple


Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Frances McDormand, John Getz, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh

Why is Blood Simple considered obligatory?

Blood Simple is not only the Coen Brothers’ filmmaking debut, it’s also the first screen role for three-time Oscar winner Frances MacDormand as well as Barry Sonnefeld’s brilliant first narrative outing as cinematographer. Pulled tighter than a guitar string, Blood Simple is often a young screenwriter’s go-to script for mystery plotting. Its seedy tone, along with its unwavering moral sensibilities, juxtapose unexpectedly well with the film’s dark comedy, establishing the unique Coen voice present in their films for decades to come. Blood Simple holds a 7.6/10 on IMDb, an 83/100 on Metacritic, and a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Blood Simple Oblogatory Review Post Marty Character

Why did you watch Blood Simple now?

It's Oblogatory's 1st 2nd 3rd 12th 28th 31st 43rd 57th 64th 85th 98th 99th 100th post!

Since my first post was a noir movie, I wanted to echo back to it by hitting a different take on the genre. I also practically worship the Coen Brothers, yet I’d never seen their first movie. Since this month’s theme is–

May is for Murder!

Blood Simple shoots all the right targets.

This movie has been on my must-watch list for a long time too. I was a freshman in college when No Country for Old Men came out. The movie hit this then-newbie film student like a cattle prod to the forehead. I’d already heard of the Coen Brothers because they were from my home state, and every other person at my out-of-state school asked if I’d seen Fargo (and were subsequently disappointed at my only mild accent). No Country for Old Men, however, awakened my love for dark comedy and blended it with my disposition towards morality plays and thrillers. My relatives also hammered Westerns into my head from a young age, so I felt that I could appreciate all the nuance and reference put into Cormac McCarthy’s story.

Suffice to say, I voraciously consumed as many of Joel and Ethan’s films as I could afterwards. Blood Simple, however, escaped me. In my experience, watching auteur directors’ first films (when they’re already established) can be like eating underripe fruit: you know how it should taste, but the flavor and texture aren’t quite there yet.

15 years later (ouch), I was scrolling HBO Max’s TCM hub and saw the Blood Simple poster. I knew I had to swallow my nerves and press play.

What’s Blood Simple about?

Abby wants out. Marty, her husband and owner of a grungy roadhouse, is unstable and has repeatedly threatened her. Helping her escape is Ray, Marty’s main bartender. Ray’s got a crush on Abby, but he’s never acted on it… until now. Before leaving town, Ray and Abby spend one night of passion together. Unbeknownst to them, a private dectective named Visser has taken pictures of them and given the evidence to Marty.

Furious, Marty attempts to kill Abby, but she gets away. Knowing that he won’t get another chance, Marty hires Visser to kill the couple for him instead. After taking verbal abuse from Marty for the last time, Visser agrees to do the job but has an idea on how to get better pay. It should be easy enough, but when blood and money are involved, nothing’s simple.

Blood Simple Oblogatory Review Post Visser Man in Yellow Bad Guy Private Investigator Character Picture
Blood Simple Oblogatory S4S Review Post Marty Ray Grave Digger Scene

What did you think of Blood Simple?

The first 20 minutes or so seemed to confirm my earlier fears–the grainy film, the bizarre characters, and occasionally awkward comedic execution were all signs that the Coen Brothers showed promise with this film and delivered with subsequent efforts. There were intermittent signs of sharp dialogue and amusing flourishes, but, beyond the inventive cinematography, Blood Simple wasn’t a fully baked classic.

Then came the murder. Every scene leading up to this one efficiently set up a payoff that was about to be executed. Even more brilliant is that each player has the wrong piece of the puzzle, so every time they try to make sense of things, the characters set each other off in a NEW wrong direction. Nothing is wasted, and Blood Simple barrels towards one hell of a climactic fight scene.

In fact, the tight plotting is so admirable, I’m a little perplexed as to why the Coen Brothers’ later efforts feel shaggier. Don’t get me wrong, I love Barton Fink‘s absurdist fiery motel and Inside Llewen Davis‘s tragic, circular journey. Rarely, however, have I seen a director’s work vacillate between clockwork precision and aimless pendulum swinging. If, by comparison, Steven Spielberg made a movie with emotionally available fathers or if Quinten Tarantino made a movie with tastefully restrained violence, the average viewer would take note.

Blood Simple also employs innovative production synergy–the windshield wipers during the opening credits flop to the beat of the music while clever sound effects cue viewers into how many bullets are left in a gun. I was left in awe that a debut feature could showcase flashy elements of each aspect of cinema without overshadowing the story or characters. No wonder film students study this one!


Okay, but would the average person appreciate Blood Simple nowadays?

I was so floored by this movie, in fact, that I sat my mom and brother down to watch it ASAP. My brother, a music director by trade, similarly gushed over the sound and music sync ups and called the plot “delightfully unhinged.” My mom, however, consumes a steady diet of murder shows, so she was expecting more gunplay and car chases. She appreciated the camerawork and liked how sleazy the ultimate villain was, but she thought it was a little slow in parts and was frustrated by how stupid one of the characters behaves during a cover-up attempt (to be fair, that person IS really stupid, but the movie makes a point to show it).

At its core, Blood Simple is a noir film–in which people try to commit a crime to better their situation and things go horribly awry. Many times, noir films are introspective between bursts of violence and intrigue because the characters’ personal demons prove their undoing. If a viewer doesn’t understand that before watching, they may be disappointed there isn’t more action.

In the right mindset, though, Blood Simple will prove to be a delirious journey into man’s heart of darkness.

Blood Simple Oblogatory S4S Review Post Ray Murder Cigarette
Blood Simple Oblogatory S4S Review Post Marty Fish Murder Scene

Who’s the audience?

  • Noir lovers
  • Screenplay students
  • Pescatarians trying to take that last leap off animal-based protein

Where can I watch Blood Simple?

You know what else is "must-see"?

Oblogatory's Newsletter!

Subscribe for the Latest in Entertainment, Reviews, and More!

You'll get a confirmation email once you submit the form. After that, the newsletter is sent once weekly. Read our privacy policy for more info.

More you might enjoy:

Or choose your own adventure!

Oblogatory Archives

Leave a Reply


Currently Oblogatory




Blue Eye Samurai
From the writer of "Logan" and "Blade Runner 2049," "Blue Eye Samurai" follows a mixed-race swordsman in 1600s Japan who, ordered by the shogunate, must expel Europeans that've remained in the country illegally. Rotten Tomatoes puts it at 100%.
Netflix releases the 8-part, hour-long-episode event about Gesicht, a detective investigating a string of human and android murders. The culprit could be a robot, which would mark only the second time in history that such a thing has occurred. From the mastermind who made ‘Monster,” this grim mystery is a spinoff—believe it or not—of “Astro Boy”!
Previous slide
Next slide

Share this:

Like this:

%d bloggers like this: