Review by Sean Boelman
Amelia Moses’s psychological horror Bleed with Me is perfect proof of how a genre can work even when stripped down to its bare minimum components. A minimalistic story executed well and benefitting from some superb performances, this may not quite be scary, but it is definitely quite unsettling.
The film follows a shy woman who tags along as a third wheel on a cabin trip with her best friend and her boyfriend, soon suspecting that something sinister may be afoot. This is by no means a standard rustic horror, although it does share that genre’s tendency of pitting its characters against each other.
Instead, it shares a lot more in common with the traditional noir mystery, in questioning who it is that should be trusted and who has the ulterior motive. Yes, there are horror elements, some of which work quite well. But it is the focus on slow-burn suspense and intrigue that makes this movie so compelling.
Apart from a few nightmare sequences, there aren’t really many jump scares here, with the emphasis instead on building an atmosphere that makes the viewer feel as if they are transported into the character’s mind. And Moses does a great job of turning the protagonist’s paranoia into an overwhelming sense of anxiety in the viewer.
The area in which Moses needs the most work is her character development. Although the dynamic between the two leads is great, they’re both a bit too ambiguous individually. And the third character, the co-lead’s boyfriend, feels very underutilized, resulting to little more than another element to make the audience ask more questions.
Regardless, the two lead performances are both excellent. Lee Marshall’s performance is full of nuance, really bringing out a lot of emotion in even the quietest of scenes. Viewers won’t know what to make of Lauren Beatty’s turn, which is exactly the point, as she is seemingly able to switch from devilishly charming to intimidatingly savage in an instant.
Moses also has a very good eye behind the camera. The nightmare sequences look great, but perhaps even more impressive is her approach to the dialogue scenes. Unlike a lot of films that are set in a single remote location, this doesn’t really make one feel trapped by the wilderness. Instead, it is her psyche that traps her, along with the viewer.
Bleed with Me is a fascinating exercise in psychological horror that, while a slow burn, creeps up in unexpected ways. With this restrained feature debut, Amelia Moses has put herself on the map as an exciting filmmaker to watch.
Bleed with Me screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which ran August 20-September 2.
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