Amelia Moses’ feature directorial debut, Bleed with Me, is a reminder, in case anyone needs it, that co-dependence is messy and dangerous. It’s a sparse horror film featuring a cast of three, including a psychological vampire who saps the energy from her friend. It’s also the type of film that warrants more than one watch because you’ll realize all the little power plays that occur during the slim 80-minute runtime.
Rowan the Third Wheel in Bleed With Me
Lee Marshall plays Rowan, a shy, awkward young woman. She tells the other characters, Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros), that she had a stalker at work. She says a strange woman showed up at the office late one night and then followed her home. The stalker re-appeared every night, according to Rowan.
Emily, Rowan’s co-worker, invites Rowan along to an isolated cabin. There, she’s the third wheel. This is reinforced from the opening shot, showing Rowan in the back of the car when they stop at a gas station. She opens her eyes and stares longingly through the rear window at Emily and Brendan. Yet, because she’s in the car, she’s isolated and separated from them, lacking the type of intimacy that they share.
These types of scenes occur at several other points. In the next shot, Emily holds Brendan’s hand in the passenger seat while he drives, again underscoring the intimacy between them. Rowan merely watches from the back. At the cabin, Rowan sits on her own chair, while Emily and Brendan take the couch and snuggle. In a later scene, as they explore the snowy surroundings, Brendan and Emily fill the frame, linking arms, with Rowan obscured behind them. She eventually comes into the frame, but she walks behind them. The cabin’s isolation reinforces Rowan’s mental state, her longing for human connection, and her awkward place within the narrative, forever on the outside of Brendan and Emily’s relationship.
The third wheel concept is reinforced further when Rowan hears Brendan complain to Emily late one night that he wanted a weekend alone with her. He’s also cool and distant towards her for the first half of the film.
Emily the Manipulator
Bleed with Me works so well, in part, because of Beatty’s performance as Emily. She’s pushy and constantly telling Rowan what to do. She serves her glass after glass of wine, brings her tea, and tells her to stay in bed when she starts feeling sick. When the trio spends a night getting stoned, Brendan and Rowan finally bond, cracking jokes with each other. Seeing their nascent connection, Emily decides to go to bed and asks Brendan to follow. She severs any friendship they can have because Emily wants Rowan to herself and Brendan, too.
Emily’s control over Rowan is delivered with a calm demeanor. Her voice is steady. Her face is sure. It’s an arresting performance and a chilling one too. It also shows the dangers of co-dependence because as much as Rowan wants a friend and idealizes the type of relationship that Emily and Brendan have, she doesn’t understand what she’s getting into when she agrees to go away with them for a weekend.
Emily the Psychological Vampire
The film’s power also lies in its ambiguity. There are hints that Emily is a vampire, but it’s never quite certain. In an early scene, when Rowan cuts her finger chopping veggies, Emily kisses the wound and seemingly thinks nothing of it. She’s drawn to the blood. When Rowan sickens, she believes Emily slips into her room late at night to cut her wrists and feed on the blood. She wakes with pink ribbons on her arms, incisions that she’s certain Emily caused. The visions Rowan has of Emily may be blurry, but the figure has Emily’s haircut and figure.
Rowan’s dreams worsen and include vivid images of Emily showering in blood, gnawing on a rabbit, and drinking blood in the kitchen. Yet, it’s never certain whether Emily is a vampire. At one point, Rowan sees traces of blood in the shower, after a hellish nightmare. However, after she closes her eyes and opens them, the blood is gone. That said, Rowan does find a box beneath a floorboard with a vial of blood and a small metal weapon. Further, she finds white pills in a cupboard. Considering Emily constantly serves Rowan drinks, it’s not unlikely she drugs her.
Women Who Keep Secrets
Both Emily and Rowan keep major secrets. When Rowan discovers a photo album, she learns that Emily had a sister. Brendan informs her that her sister died when they were kids. Struggling to cope with the grief, Emily had a breakdown. She doesn’t even mention her deceased sister to Rowan. It’s only unearthed because of the photo album.
Rowan later confesses that she watched Emily for some time, stalking her. Rowan admits when she first saw Emily, she caught her getting into her car. She was struck by how content and put together she looked. She adds that when she first saw Brendan and Emily together, she never knew such happiness was possible. It turns out that the stalker story Rowan shared earlier in the film is likely untrue. Instead, Rowan is the stalker. This is hinted at earlier in the film when Brendan asks Rowan where she’s from. She stumbles over the answer, trying to veil her past. Yet, Rowan never appears threatening. She simply envies the life that the young lovers have, which appears perfect, on the outside, at least.
Surprisingly, Emily is unmoved by this confession. Most people would get the heck out of there or at the very least, go to the police. But Emily only clings to Rowan tighter, insisting that she needs to do what Emily says. The power play continues until the film’s very last moments. Additionally, Emily likely knows that Rowan is harmless. She would never hurt the other characters. Rather, she’s simply lonely. the movie reinforces this constantly by focusing on Rowan’s voyeurism. She watches, and she pines.
Certainly Not Friends That Will Bleed With Me
While Bleed with Me is a slow burn, it builds to quite the well-earned conclusion. It was inevitable that Rowan would confront Emily and one of them would end up dead. After she finds the box under a loose floorboard, she later wakes up in bed with Emily next to her. She insists that Rowan stop hurting herself. Rowan then discovers three vials of blood on the kitchen counter, and she stabs Emily in the neck. Yet, the incision tool was already bloody. There are a few different ways to read this. Either Emily just cut Rowan’s wrist, or Rowan has been doing it to herself.
Yet, based on all of Emily’s behaviors throughout the film, including her warped powerplays and gaslighting, I’m in favor of the scenario that Emily was indeed drugging Rowan and draining her blood. While it’s unclear if Emily is a vampire, there are more than enough scenes showcasing her abusive and frightening behavior.
Brendan finds Rowan shellshocked, walking along the road. When they return to the cabin, they find Emily’s murdered body. In the final shot, Rowan looks at her friend one more time, as her bottom lip trembles and she breaks down. Any type of friendship or intimacy she longed for is dashed. Emily is dead, killed by Rowan, the woman she could no longer control.
Bleed with Me never draws any firm conclusion, but it is a film about co-dependence and ugly relationships. It features jealousy, mind games, and maybe a vampire, or at least a woman who feeds in more ways than one. The film debuted at Fantasia Fest last year and gets a broader release on Shudder August 10.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his wife or curling up on the couch, and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.