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{Fantasia Fest} Bleed With Me Review- Quiet Feminine Horror With An Edge

Bleed With Me premiering at Fantasia Fest 2020 is a razor-sharp rumination on women, relationships, our own minds, and whether any of them can be trusted.

Who can you trust when you aren’t sure you can even trust yourself? That’s the general conceit of Amelia Moses’ directorial debut Bleed With Me. As much a character study of women and how they relate to each other as a horror film, this deeply feminist vision seeks to expose the truth about being our own worst enemies. Brutally self-reflective, this film scares more with the truth than gore. Self-harm, blood ingestion, and manipulation are all components of this interesting take on the female condition.

Two young women, Rowan and Emily, travel to an isolated family cabin where they are meeting Emily’s boyfriend, Brendan. After a night of imbibing gets the best of Rowan, she begins to have terrible dreams or hallucinations. Those make her question herself and her friend’s intentions. As increasingly bizarre things happen in her sleep and mysterious injuries appear, Rowan is forced to wonder if Emily is her friend or foe. How much is a hallucination, and how much is the danger she should be wary of?

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Using the stark barrenness of the winter wild coupled with the claustrophobic intimacy of the cabin, Moses can wring raw anxiety from her cast. The cold air and crackle of the fire both come straight through the screen. They add a punctuation mark onto the oddness of the weekend retreat. With such a tiny cast and small space, Moses’ film could have been flat. Instead, it is unsettling and intense, which is a testament to the performances and Moses’ focused direction. Something isn’t right from the beginning, and it only gets worse.

Bleed With Me

Right away, it’s obvious there is a power imbalance between the two women. Rowan(Lee Marshall) is shy and socially awkward, where Emily(Lauren Beatty) is successful and self-confident. Emily has everything and is everything Rowan wishes she could be. That admiration verges on sexual energy as the film progresses. Beatty and Marshall manage to lock down a fair amount of confusing emotion without overplaying it. It becomes clear they both need each other for different reasons, and both have skeletons in the closet.

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Taking a page from classic Whatever Happened To Baby Jane and the animated masterpiece Perfect Blue, this is what it means to be a woman. It’s complicated and messy and often is a void of endless confusion, self-loathing, and competition. Being a young woman, in particular, is tough. You are just finding yourself, and that comes with a lot of baggage. Rowan initially presents as the victim to Emily’s machinations. As the film continues, however, you realize there are more complex dynamics at play. Resonant and timely the horror comes from within rather than from jump scares.

Bleed With Me is an intimate chamber piece meant to focus solely on the minds of these two women. Emily’s boyfriend Brendan only serves as a plot device to stir the pot. His interactions with the two women are superficial for a reason. He is only a catalyst for eventualities, not the leading cause of them. These two women and how they feel about themselves and each other is all that is important. Aris Tyros(Brendan) gamely accepts his role and provides the right touch of exasperated indifference as the hapless male in a space dripping with estrogen laden subtext.

The final act is a bit rushed after the excruciatingly slow build-up. This thoughtful thriller never quite resolves the central question but instead chooses to remain deliberately vague. Neither woman’s motivations were entirely clear, and that murkiness left me feeling slightly unsatisfied. Who did what is less essential than why. As is true for most of us, we never exactly know why we do the things we do. For a movie about blood, there is less of it than you would think. What there is, though, is well used. Sometimes less is more, and in this case, that’s true.

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This is a female movie, make no mistake. It’s for women about women. Weirdly voyeuristic and increasingly paranoid Bleed With Me wants you to feel Rowan’s growing panic and Emily’s desperation. A slow burner than takes a little to long to get to the climax; it is nonetheless worth a watch. For those who like thoughtful horror, it is a sure bet. You can catch Bleed With Me on August 26th with a live Q and A with writer/director Amelia Moses to follow and then again on September 1st, 2020.

Catch all our Fantasia Fest 2020 coverage here.