Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Bleed with Me
Writer/Director: Amelia Moses
Starring: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros
During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.
K. Bleed with Me revolves around a couple, Emily (Lauren Beatty) and Brendan (Aris Tyros) and their friend Rowan (Lee Marshall), who go to a cabin for a vacation. It’s immediately clear that Emily has taken the slightly introverted Rowan under her wing and that Brendan isn’t pleased to have her along for the vacation. This tension sets Rowan ill at ease as do her recurring nightmares of Emily drinking her blood. Is she losing her mind or is Emily some kind of modern vampire? So far this sounds like a decent setup for a low budget horror film. Unfortunately, it crawls along with underwritten scenes and dull dialogue as the 3 characters search for the lost thread of the plot. The imbalanced relationship between Emily and Rowan is never elaborated, nor is the rocky romance between Emily and Brendan, or a last minute subplot about Emily’s younger sister who died in an accident during their childhood. When all this late night blood sucking comes to a head in a sudden act of violence we’re left with more questions than answers...in a bad way. It’s an ambiguous ending to an ambiguous film that never went beneath the surface of its own premise. That being said, Lee Marshall turns in a vulnerable performance as Rowan, it’s a shame the writing wasn’t more fleshed out. Like every other one of these festival duds, the technical craftsmanship is adequate, reminding us once again that a good story is the most important tool of all. J. This film has some ideas that are intriguing but buried somewhere inside the story that isn’t really a story. Things are touched on but that’s about it. Nothing is fleshed out or elaborated. It leaves you with a thousand questions that are never answered. Not one goddamn question the audience has gets answered. Even something as simple as, how the hell is the person catching the rabbits and hanging them from trees doing it? And why? There’s a vampirism thing going on that doesn’t really go anywhere, like everything else. There’s mental illness things going on. The best scenes of the film for me were dreams and that doesn’t really count… which also doesn’t really go anywhere. Craig is gonna mention mumblecore and this would fit that description but the film needs to do more in terms of… I dunno, something. Literally everything is left ambiguous and I’m not one that has to have shit explained all across the board but this gets frustrating and repetitive to boot. On top of the location being top notch, there’s also a scene where Brendon is reading a Tales From the Crypt comic. And that’s about the extent of the praise. If you want to set up a vampire possibility but we see all of these characters in broad daylight at minute 10 that’s not gonna work. As far as I’m concerned you can play with the lore but not having real, honest-to-God vampires in daylight. Not acceptable. Frustrating is the best word for this film. C. I’m all for intimate vampire-like tales that are presented more as a character study or psychological drama, The Habit, Ganja and Hess, Daughters of Darkness, even to the more recent Bliss. I feel the subject of vampirism offers a lot of opportunity for storytellers to deal with a lot of subject matter from addiction to sexual awakening. Also marketed as Canadian body horror, which it’s not, but I must admit there were some high hopes going into Bleed with Me. That being said there are many elements within the movie that work incredibly well, from the acting, premise, setup, build of tension, and its visual and audio techniques. To its benefit it willingly places itself in the niche horror category of mumblegore (the horror equivalent to mumblecore), a dialogue-heavy style within the independent industry that relies mainly on character and relationships than plot. As I know Kyle will brilliantly incorporate what little plot there is into his reaction, I’ll avoid the repetition. However, it revolves around a couple (Emily and Brendan) that find their relationship becoming strained, as Brendan has turned into more of a caretaker for Emily than it being a mutual give-and-take relationship. Emily invites her new friend (Rowan) to tag along on this intimate weekend getaway, ultimately causing tension between everyone. During the trip, Rowan begins to suspect Emily is draining her blood each night. Is Emily a vampire or is Rowan suffering from a mental health crisis, which is hinted at. While I acknowledge there are many aspects of this movie that I really enjoyed and I admit good chunks had me entirely engaged, because it’s a great showcase of talent for all involved. Unfortunately Bleed with Me finds itself stuck in the trap with a lot of films of that style. It doesn’t really go anywhere and becomes very repetitive, making it’s 80 minute runtime feel a lot longer. It makes the misstep of focusing so much on the atmosphere that after the initial tension subsides I sat there in a constant state of “okay, what’s next?”. If you’re going to skimp on plot then you really have to knock it out of the park with your characters’ arcs (which you should knock it out of the park with your characters all the time). The films I mentioned in the beginning offer such emotional, philosophical, or psychological depth that pull you in a way that story isn’t necessary. This has that potential but never gets around to it, because the film is naturalistic to a fault. Yes, if you were going to go on real romantic getaway with your partner and their friend tags along, you’d avoid discussing the issues but that’s why cinema isn’t real life. Subtext is great in characters but at some point stuff has to happen or be brought into the light.
C. For fans of mumblecore/mumblegore I’d suggest it, as it’s a piece that shows a lot of promise for all those involved. Part of me is in that group and wants to promote it for that reason but in the end it was just one of those movies that are forgotten five minutes after the credits have ended. AND YES JOSH I WILL MENTION MUMBLECORE EVERY DAMN DAY IF I CAN! J. I’ve seen worse, so if our responses sound like something you’d be interested in, give it a look but don’t be disappointed when the film disappoints you. I’m sorry, frustrates you. K. Mumblecore, mumblegore, call it what you will. At the end of the day, you can tout all its “artistic” merits, but it doesn’t succeed in the horror/thriller/vampire/tension department. Josh summed it up in one word: “frustrating”. That being said, I think with a better story the filmmakers could make something good.
Bloodhound’s average score: 2 out of 5