An extraordinary, hauntingly beautiful film, “Bleed With Me” proves how effective simple, stripped-back horror can be in the right hands.
Do you believe in serendipity? I do, and I believe that the way I found this movie was serendipitous.
Originally, I had intended to review a totally different film tonight. I watched it, wrote a review, and submitted it. But…I hadn’t checked properly, and it turned out that someone else had already covered that film. So I needed to find another film, and nothing caught my fancy until I came across Amelia Moses’ Bleed With Me. Reading the short reviews on Shudder convinced me this might be my kind of film.
As it turns out, having to find another movie to review was a gift because it led me to this extraordinary find. So, please bear with me while I gush.
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that this won’t be for everyone.
Bleed With Me is slow-burn, psychological horror — the kind of film tailor-made for an arthouse crowd. If you’re looking for action and gore, try something else.
However, if you’re a fan of movies about the human condition, you’ve come to the right place.
A trio of young adults, Rowan, her best friend Emily, and Emily’s boyfriend Brendan go to a secluded cabin in the winter to get away for a while. It’s implied that Rowan (Lee Marshall) is in recovery from a psychological condition — she has self-harm scars — and that Emily (Lauren Beatty) is helping her. But Emily has her own problems; an accident has left her with a severe limp.
Brendan (Aris Tyros) is there to support Emily. Essentially, it’s a co-dependant powder keg.
The three of them spend the first night having a drink and playing cards, and it seems that Rowan has had too much to drink. She passes out, and Emily and Brendan put her to bed. In her semi-conscious state, Rowan hears Brendan saying that he isn’t that happy that she is there; he feels that he and Emily need some time alone.
The next morning, Rowan asks Emily if it’s ok that she is there, and Emily reassures her that, of course, it is. She also gives Rowan a hangover cure that seems to make her feel worse rather than better.
As they go for a walk in the woods, the group sees some rabbits hanging from a tree with their throats cut. Emily says it’s normal round there and was probably just hunters, but the sight disturbs Rowan.
That night, she has the first of a series of dreams in which she sees Emily in her room.
The next morning, Rowan has a fresh cut on her arm and is not feeling too well.
Emily acts like an older sister giving her some painkillers and calling her a ‘good girl’ for taking them. Rowan continues to feel worse as the days progress and continues having dreams/visions. She becomes convinced that Emily is drugging her and taking her blood. Each morning, a fresh cut appears on Rowan’s arm.
Emily continues to foster a sisterly attitude towards Rowan. Later we find out that she had a younger sister who died when she was ten. As Rowan becomes more and more convinced that Emily is harming her, the tensions between the three increase, eventually leading Brendan to leave for a while.
It’s at that point that Rowan confronts Emily and the climax of the movie takes place.
Amelia Moses has given us a visually stunning movie. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Bleed With Me is also very stripped back; the entire cast consists of just three characters.
Although the film is a lean 80-minutes long, it’s still quite a testament to the actors that they manage to keep us fully invested for the entire runtime. It’s utterly compelling from beginning to end. Marshall and Beatty in particular turn in superb and riveting performances.
I absolutely loved that Bleed With Me is such an ambiguous movie.
Is Emily actually taking rowan’s blood, or is Rowan having a breakdown? It’s a question that isn’t directly answered, and the movie is all the better for that.
At one point in the film, Emily tells Rowan she doesn’t understand why Brendan likes her. She says, “It’s easier to have someone need you. To actually like you, to like the person you actually are, that’s much rarer.” It’s moments like these that really hit home for me and elevated this film to something sublime.
In many ways, Bleed With Me reminded me very much of Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece, Persona — not in style or genre, but in its superb character dynamic.
Quite honestly, I can’t give any higher praise than that.