Fantasia 2020 – Bleed with Me (2020)

Directed by: Amelia Moses. Starring: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros. Runtime: 1h 19 min. Released: This film had its World Premiere at Fantasia Film Festival on August 26, 2020.

During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive and awkward young woman, Rowan (Lee Marshall), begins to believe her best friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty), is stealing her blood.

Bleed with Me has a very strange character dynamic from the start. It’s strange because this was supposed to be a couples’ getaway between Emily and boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros), and Emily invited Rowan. This brings a passive-aggressiveness from the start that I didn’t like.

The analysis of the characters and the co-dependency between the characters is the centre of the film, as is Rowan feeling like the third wheel in the group. There’s an insecure feeling of being a third wheel – mainly the feeling of not being wanted and the paranoia that initially grows from that. I think that’s an interesting starting ground for horror because it’s so relatable, but I didn’t connect with what writer/director Amelia Moses created here.

I found a lot of the dialogue and conversations went nowhere. Rowan asks how Emily and Brendan are so happy in a relationship. “It’s simple because we take care of each other,” says Emily, and that’s the end of that conversation. Almost every conversation happens awkwardly like that. It also feels plotless until Rowan starts having fits of sleep paralysis and starts waking up with slash marks on her arm each morning.

The fact that there’s not a compelling story didn’t help me, either, as I did not connect with one of these characters. There’s a naturalism about everything they do that makes this feel like a Canadian interpretation of the mumblecore/mumblegore films, but those films are defined by “naturalistic dialogue and naturalistic acting” and while the story happens naturally – about a trio of friends hanging out at a cabin as one becomes increasingly paranoid – but the dialogue feels too stilted to feel at all natural.

Lauren Beatty in Bleed with Me. (Photo courtesy of Fantasia Film Festival.)

Lee Marshall as Rowan (pictured in this post’s featured image) takes most of the weight of the film on. She’s at her best when she acts with her eyes, mistrusting of everyone around her. There’s an aspect to the character of her just being a really awkward person, and she seems out of touch with her emotions. She tells a story about a woman stalking her but she seems to tell it like she’s reminiscing about an old friend. On reflection, this delivery is a nice touch, but during it’s hard to gauge if she feels happy or scared about the situation. I think this is because she’s such an awkward character and I think Marshall really throws herself into the role creating this tortured woman.

Rowan also constantly observes the couple – cementing her “outside looking in” personality – and it’s such a strange dynamic to watch. Lauren Beatty as Emily does spar with Rowan well in some scenes. The trio carry the film because they have to, and I think they’d be stronger in other films because none of this dialogue or any of this story packs a punch. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about what happened because I didn’t naturally like any of these characters. There are only two or three conversations throughout the runtime that advance the plot, and this bored me.

That’s the most frustrating for me as a viewer and horror lover; when I finish a film and it feels so pointless. In this film’s case, I can think of a point to the film but I just didn’t care for what it had to say. Every plot development feels so surface level that it’s easy to guess, especially when Moses’ script withholds information about certain characters. It’s relatively easy to come up with a hunch about it, and when it just ends up being a red herring, it’s equally frustrating.

In the actual horror, Moses brings a strong sense of isolation that made me think of a couple different Stephen King stories. Some of the visuals – especially during Rowan’s dreams – are unsettling. However, there are so many scenes that feel pointless, too, like finding a dead rabbit in the woods and Brendan and Emily poking and prodding at it for a good minute. This is just a slow-burn horror set in an Ontario cabin that amounts to nothing. Even at 79 minutes, Bleed with Me isn’t worth the time. I’ll bleed alone, thanks.

Score: 38/100

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