“Blood Simple” is an simple, yet amazing movie that packs enough twists and dark humor to keep you entertained, fascinated, and on the edge of your seat. This is how it fits in with the 15 Minute Movie Method.
I have no idea why I was at this particular movie theater late one night in 1984. I think it was the first time I had ever been in that theater and might have even been the last time I went to see a movie by myself. I still can’t recall why I went to see this movie since I had never heard of it before, but it turned out to be “Blood Simple,” the debut movie from the Cohen brothers who would later go on and write “Fargo.”
When I left the theater that night, I was simply blown away by this movie. Now years later, it’s easy for me to see how this movie works. For those of you who haven’t seen this movie yet, rent it now. It’s far superior to much of the weekly crap that Hollywood shovels at us in hopes of snaring bored movie goers with something new. My general rule with movies is that if I don’t know if it’s a good movie or not, I’ll save time and money by renting a good movie instead of going to the theater.
First, let’s see how “Blood Simple” works. Remember, every movie can be divided into eight distinct segments that act like mini-movies all their own. In a 120 minute movie, each segment is roughly 15 minutes long, but don’t take this time length too literally. All you need to know is that you can divide a movie into eight segments.
Act I — Exposition
Segment #1: Ray and Abby are driving and being followed by a private detective named Visser. Ray and Abby reveal their feelings towards each other and check into a motel (Inciting Incident). Meanwhile, Visser reports back to Abby’s husband, Marty, to give him the bad news. Marty fires Ray from his bar and threatens to shoot him if he returns (Rising Action). Abby moves in with Ray and Marty breaks into Ray’s place to get her back but fails (Climax).
Segment #2: Marty hires Visser to kill Ray and Abby (Inciting Incident). Ray helps Abby move into her own place and out of Marty’s place while Visser stalks them (Rising Action). Visser shows Marty the photographs of their dead bodies and when Marty pays him off, Visser shoots Marty (Climax).
Act IIa — Positive Rising Action
Segment #3: Ray discovers Marty’s body and thinks Abby did it (Inciting Incident). Ray tries to hide all evidence and keep from being discovered in the bar (Rising Action). Ray manages to sneak out of the bar with Marty’s body and burn the evidence of the bloody rags he used to clean up the blood stains (Climax).
Segment #4: Ray drives down the highway with Marty in his back seat (Inciting Incident). Suddenly, he realizes that Marty is still alive (Rising Action). Ray manages to bury Marty anyway while Marty tries to shoot Ray with a gun, but it fails to go off. Ray buries Marty (Climax).
Act IIb — Negative Rising Action
Segment #5: Ray confronts Abby about the murder, but she claims to know nothing about it (Inciting Incident). Visser discovers that he doesn’t have the fake photographs that he showed Marty and he left his cigarette lighter in the bar, which could lead the police back to him. Meanwhile, everyone thinks that Marty is still alive. (Rising Action). Abby has a dream where Marty visits her in her new apartment and then dies in front of her (Climax).
Segment #6: Ray packs to leave town (Inciting Incident). Abby tries to figure out what happened while Ray leaves (Rising Action). Ray goes back to the bar and sees the fake photographs that Visser made that showed him and Abby dead. While looking at these photographs, he’s spotted by Visser who now knows that Ray and Abby could lead the police to him (Climax).
Act III — Climax
Segment #7: Ray shows up unannounced at Abby’s apartment (Inciting Incident). Visser is across the street with a sniper rifle, aiming at Ray and Abby (Rising Action). Visser shoots Ray (Climax).
Segment #8: Abby ducks and smashes the light bulbs to darken the room (Inciting Incident). As Abby tries to escape, Visser comes after her so Abby runs back into her apartment (Rising Action). While hunting Abby down, Visser gets shot by Abby (Climax).
The key is noticing that each segment starts off with an inciting incident, has some sort of conflict, and then concludes with a climax that directly causes the next segment like a link in a chain. Each segment or mini-movie is interesting in itself and leads into the next mini-movie until the final climactic ending. That’s the 15 Minute Movie Method as defined by “Blood Simple.” Watch “Blood Simple” again or watch another movie that you’ve already seen. That way you’ll be able to recognize the 15 minute segments without getting distracted by the story itself.