28th Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Bleed With Me’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros | Written and Directed by Amelia Moses

Yet another Canadian horror production (which is always a good sign in my book), Bleed With Me is a female-led genre film from Montreal-based filmmaker Amelia Moses, making her feature debut, whose acclaimed short Undress Me played at Fantasia in 2017.

Bleed With Me sees Rowan (Lee Marshall), a self-destructive and vulnerable outsider, thrilled when the seemingly perfect Emily invites her on a winter getaway to an isolated cabin in the woods. Struggling to integrate herself with her best friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her unfriendly boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros) and feeling like a third wheel, she drinks to calm her nerves, pushing her body and mind deep into a hazy trance, where she begins to witness nightmarish late-night visions that make her feel increasingly unwelcome, unsure and unstable. Trust soon turns into paranoia when Rowan wakes up with mysterious incisions on her arm and becomes convinced that her friend is stealing her blood.

Channeling the mumblecore aesthetic of a few years ago, Bleed With Me plays out like a film of the mumblecore movement; feeling very similar in tonality and sheer overall creepiness to the Mark Duplass starring Creep movies. Though Moses’ film feels much more akin to a dark drama than the so-called mumblegore movies of the past… The film spends a long time introducing the audience to our trio of characters – yes, Bleed With Me only features three characters, all ‘trapped’ in a cabin for the weekend – and showing us the relationships between them.

Yet for all the dramatic elements, there’s also a huge sense of unease throughout those opening scenes – helped immensely by the terrific score and the way in which the trio of actors: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty and Aris Tyros all interact and behave. For it’s the behaviour of this films characters that truly creates the horror within it. No one here is perfect, even though it at times seems Emily is; they all have flaws, fears and foibles and their weekend getaway only seems to amplify them.

Then there’s the marks that appear on Rowan’s arms…

Rowan already has scars from a history of cutting and her seemingly fragile mental state would suggest that perhaps things have taken a toll and she has resorted to self-harm once again. But Rowan has other ideas – and a dead rabbit and odd, increasingly terrifying, visions perhaps foreshadow that something else, something more sinister, is going on at the cabin. But what? Is a small, almost motherly-like gesture from Emily, sucking on a cut on Rowan’s finger to help stop the flow of blood, a sign of something more? Is Emily just TOO perfect? Does she have something to do with the cuts on Rowan’s arms? Or is it all in Rowan’s head?

These are the questions on which Bleed With Me builds its tension, brings the horror; and we’re in the dark as much as Rowan is. We, like her, just know something is not quite right. We’re eventually let in on SOME of this films secrets as the story comes to its downbeat conclusion but the question still remains though, are we seeing the truth or a story told by a flawed narrator in Rowan?

**** 4/5

A beautiful, ethereal, 21st-Century take on vampirism – both literal and metaphorical – and a bold statement on mental health, Bleed With Me screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival, which takes place Aug 20th – Sept 2nd 2020.


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