How well do we really know our friends? Amelia Moses puts that concept to the test in Bleed with Me, a horror film rooted in the psychological with a slow-burn pace. At times, the story is a mind game, and some scenes are completely ambiguous, but overall, it works. The film stands a cut above other thrillers and was a real highlight of the recent Charlotte Film Festival. The film speaks to a deep-rooted fear that those closest to us may not be who we think they are.
Bleed with Me has a premise recognizable to most horror fans, at least initially. A trio visit an isolated cabin for a winter getaway. Sounds familiar enough, right? However, from there, Moses subverts our expectations. Rowan (Lee Marshall) suspects that her friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty), is stealing her blood. Each day, Rowan’s condition worsens, and she’s certain that her bestie is to blame. Emily’s boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros), is caught in the middle. To be clear, this isn’t a vampire narrative. Emily bares no fangs, and that makes the film more horrifying. In one of the earliest scenes, Rowan cuts her finger by accident, and Emily licks the blood, proclaiming that she made it all better. It’s a deeply unexpected and unsettling moment.
From there, the rest of the film is slow-burn nightmare fuel. Rowan grows weaker and paler, and her visions become more and more horrific. She believes that she sees Emily in her bedroom, cutting her wrist to drain her blood. Yet, the camera never shows Emily in focus. Instead, we’re presented with a blurred vision through Rowan’s perspective. Is Rowan crazy? Is Emily really stealing her blood? I suppose that’s up for the viewer to decide.
For her part, Beatty plays the role quite well. Her character slips into Rowan’s room to check her temp and offer her tea. Her soft-spoken “good girls” are surprisingly as troubling as the visions that Rowan has. It’s never clear to the viewer whether or not Emily can be trusted, and it’s also uncertain whether or not Rowan’s visions are hallucinations that result from her fever. While this may not work for everyone, fans of psychological horror may enjoy Moses’ directorial and narrative choices.
Moses does a fine job establishing a sense of isolation from the get-go, with shots of snow-capped trees and fields of white that surround the cabin. Several interior shots feature Rowan, sweating and feverish in bed, trapped both by her condition and the cabin’s location. Meanwhile, Moses slowly reveals more character details building to the film’s final act. It’s an effective storytelling technique that will again make the viewer question whether or not they should trust Emily, Rowan, or neither character.
Bleed with Me is not a film that relies heavily on gore or even blood, despite the title, but when blood is shown, it’s used quite well, either to reinforce one of Rowan’s awful visions or to conjure some real world frights. Who knew, for instance, that blood dripping from a rabbit onto white snow could be so haunting?
Bleed with Me probably isn’t for everyone. The pacing and ambiguity may be off-putting to some viewers, but Moses takes the old story about friends visiting an isolated cabin and does something unique with it. There are several scenes that will stick with viewers because of how disturbing they are. It’s clear that Moses, both as a writer and director, knows the horror tropes well. Instead of repeating them, she’s more interested in challenging and subverting an audience’s expectations. That’s what makes Bleed with Me cut more deeply than the usual paint-by-numbers genre films. It takes the usual story about friends visiting a remote cabin and does something wildly creative with the premise. The result is a lean film that contains both restraint and an effective use of scares and discomforting moments.
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