Directed by Philip Gelatt
Some small towns have dirty little secrets they sweep under the rug, the shame of it shared by all. Other towns wear their blemishes on the surface, and try as they might, exerting whatever pressures the law will allow, they have no way to rid themselves of those who have besmirched their good name. The Bleeding House is the story of one such shameful family, shunned by a town they can not extricate themselves from. There was pain … and sorrow … and death … and the family covered their tracks as best they could while their lawyer father made sure their sins went unpunished.
Now they live a solitary life with the weight of their secret looming overhead like a monumental rockslide held in place by a single, frail tree branch…straining from the weight. The pressure is palatable. The seemingly helpless father struggles to regain a life that he can never return to. The dutiful mother buckles under the stress in private as she keeps up the face of the unflappable matriarch, training her eye on every movement her family makes and reminding them of the fact at every turn. Their pretty daughter retreats into a world of her own making where dead things hold as much beauty as a budding flower. The aloof son remains under their roof while somewhat divesting himself of the whole affair, lost in the love of his girlfriend and plotting the day when he will run away with her.
The stage is set. A knock at the door introduces an unassuming man with a charming accent in need of help. The lines are blurred, and only the unfolding of this dark tale will tell who is the wolf and who is the sheep led to slaughter. Game on.
The Bleeding House takes on the format of a tightly wound stage play. The house in the middle of nowhere made claustrophobic by its characters that hold each other within while not daring to venture out themselves. Only the son, Quentin, dares brave the scornful stares of the townsfolk, coming and going while the main story unfolds, remaining a sort of wildcard and essential element to any great, suspenseful thriller. At the root of the tension, standing on opposite ends of the chess board are Gloria (Chando), the off kilter, slightly unhinged daughter, and Nick (Breen), the man in the white suit whose Southern fried smile seems a little too wide to be sincere. The motives and secrets of all are revealed as we grip tightly to our seats and wait for the first drops of blood to fly free. You’ll note this story never takes on a breakneck speed, even when potential victims are fleeing for their lives. The tone remains very low-key.
This may play well to those easily creeped out, but you’ll have to remember this review is being handled by someone completely desensitized to horror films and thus has to be REALLY sucked in by a story. The plot here is fairly thin, relying on a great deal of charm from the two opponents discussed previously. Those two essentially carry the film from start to finish so if you don’t like them and buy their performances, you may as well quit before the film’s finale.
A little charm can go a long way, and Bleeding House dishes out heaping helpings while revealing an evil that derives great pleasure in inflicting pain. With this insidious joy comes endless dialogue creating black comedy sensibilities, if only delivered from a singular source. This was enough to keep me locked in, laughing at the inappropriate and demented, as I believe all great horror movies should. Whetherbthis is enough to keep the audience at large screaming for more remains to be seen.
At best The Bleeding House is a chilling little indie with a cast filled with vanilla characters ripe for the knife. Keeping the action largely in the confined space of their country home will remind you of Funny Games wherein the killer(s) are revealed and are not supernatural in any way, shape or form, providing you with a focal point to flee from. Even escaping into the nearby woods does not ensure your survival. The unpredictable nature of life and, to a larger degree, the stupidity of those in the world you inhabit become the deciding factors.
The Bleeding House has no particular shooting style to set a tone. The weight of the writing and how the actors convey this tension supply you with all the emotional content you’ll need to carry you through the unfolding mayhem, cheering for the survival or demise of all involved. It is this sort of neutral ground that makes the tale more compelling. Aside from the obvious, revealed evil, all the players retain a sort of unrepentant demeanor. Not irredeemable but somewhat unapologetic as well. This leaves you guilt free to give a thumbs down to those you truly can’t muster a kind thought for and watch them meet a sticky end. Sick? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Three cheers for a horror film with snappy banter delivered at the point of a knife! This is an unflinching piece of American horror through and through.
3 1/2 out of 5
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