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River Phoenix appears in a still from the 1993 film, Dark Blood. - Provided courtesy of Fine Line Features

River Phoenix's final film 'Dark Blood' released 19 years after his death

11/01/2012 by Olivia Allin

Halloween marked the 19th anniversary of River Phoenix's sudden death in 1993 and his final film, "Dark Blood," was finally released.

The highly-anticipated film premiered for the first time at the 32nd Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht on September 27, and received offers from several other festivals since its debut. Dutch director George Sluizer said that he would like to see the film get a wider release.

At the Netherlands Film Festival, the 80-year-old director told the crowd that the footage of the film was nearly destroyed in 1999 because the insurance company did not want to pay for storage. According to Variety, he told the audience, "They might say 'stolen,' though I prefer the word 'saved.'"

Variety praised the film and Phoenix's final performance, writing, "Phoenix exerts a suitably charismatic and commanding air in his final role, making Boy a complex, fully mature character. That he's not always psychologically readable is perhaps partly due to the fact that the story has been rewritten, and a few key sequences are available only in abbreviated v.o. (including the first meeting and a pivotal sex scene with Buffy in which Boy 'weeps as an infant')."

"Dark Blood" follows Phoenix's character Boy, a widowed hermit living on a nuclear testing site in the desert, waiting for the end of the world and carving Katchina dolls. His wait is interrupted by a Hollywood couple (Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce) seeking shelter and Boy holds them captive when he decides he could create a better world with the wife.

A trailer for the film hit the web in May, thanks to the hard work of Sluizer, who re-cut parts of the film, which was 80% finished at the time of Phoenix's death.

Sluizer and editor Michiel Reichwein worked on the film together, with the help of CineCrowd, to gather donations for the post-production budget. Those who donate to the project can receive invites to the premiere, a pre-screening or a supporting producer credit on the film, depending on the amount. The Netherlands Film Fund supplied part of the budget and Sluizer himself also raised funds.

It was reported in November 2011, that Sluizer planned to get the help of the late actor's brother, Joaquin Phoenix, to do the voiceover as River's character Boy. Joaquin Phoenix is named on the film's IMDB page as providing voiceover work.

"The voices of both brothers are very much alike." Sluizer told The Hollywood Reporter.

Phoenix died in 1993 at age 23 outside the Los Angeles nightclub the Viper Room, which was at the time partially owned by actor Johnny Depp. Phoenix's death was caused by an overdose of drugs such as cocaine and morphine, the local coroner's office had said.

Phoenix was about 16 when he played Chris in the 1986 film "Stand By Me." Three years later, he played the younger version of Indiana Jones in the hit film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

Phoenix later earned an Oscar nomination for his role as a teen pianist with a dark family secret in the 1988 movie "Running on Empty."

In the early 1990s, he starred alongside fellow 1980s heartthrob Keanu Reaves in the films "My Own Private Idaho" and "I Love You to Death." Reeves had appeared with Phoenix's brother Joaquin in the movie "Parenthood."

Phoenix also played a country singer in the 1993 film 'The Thing Called Love,' which starred his reported off-screen girlfriend, Samantha Mathis, as well as Sandra Bullock.

Phoenix's looks were often compared to actor Christian Slater's. Slater also dated Mathis and starred with her in the 1990 movie "Pump Up the Volume." He also took on a movie role that was originally supposed to be played by Phoenix - that of the interviewer in the 1994 film "Interview With the Vampire." Slater donated his entire $250,000 paycheck to Phoenix's favorite charities.

Watch a trailer for "Dark Blood" and an interview with director George Sluizer below.

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