BLEED WITH ME is a film written and directed by Amelia Moses, starring Lee Marshall (Rowan) – who also co-produced the film, Lauren Beatty (Emily), and Aris Tyros (Brendan). The cinematography is by René Arseneau. It is part of the Fantasia Film Festival’s 2020 lineup.
Rowan is in the back seat of a car, riding into the countryside with Emily and her boyfriend Brendan for an awkward getaway. Rowan seems like a sleepy passive child and Emily seems to be taking part in a caretaker relationship with her that is fairly intense. This annoys Brendan who probably looked forward to having his girlfriend to himself, but he seems a decent guy who comes to care more for Rowan as he gets to know her. Emily seems to become jealous when Brendan and Rowan start to bond and we’re not completely sure who Emily is jealous of. Rowan slowly starts to suspect that Emily may be a vampire and things start to unravel at a fairly leisurely pace until the ambiguous ending.
Rowan is of the genus of characters known as the unreliable narrator. After a time, you can tell that Rowan is making things up as she goes along and not telling the truth when questioned about certain facts. She’s secretive for a reason. When she starts “sleepwalking” and seeing unpleasant things and having waking nightmares about a vampire in her room, it’s not clear if the entire scenario isn’t the fantasy of a disturbed woman with a fixation. The wounds on her arm, purportedly caused by the vampire, look an awful lot like scars made by people who cut themselves. The central premise is a question. Is this all in Rowan’s head or is she truly the victim of a supernatural monster.
BLEED WITH ME is ultimately unsuccessful for two reasons: in seeking to be ambiguous, the film doesn’t do the backup work needed to establish enough reality in story and characterization for the ambiguity to matter. While all three of the characters are fine, there’s no real connection between any of them emotionally to make the premise viable. All three characters are like people waiting in line at the local coffee shop, not people who are supposed to have love relationships with each other in a slowly building crisis. The story meanders and just keeps looping back upon itself. It doesn’t seem to go anywhere narratively until the very end.
There is also some symbolism that simply disappears partway through. To be specific, there’s rabbit wallpaper in the bathroom that Rowan uses more than once. The wallpaper is striking and clearly featured. Confession: I really liked the rabbit wallpaper. Then there’s a scene outside the cabin with a real rabbit that seems to show that a certain character is cruel and filled with bloodlust, a clear indication that the person is not human. It just gets dropped partway through the film and was there for no other reason to throw suspicion on the alleged vampire to create tension which seems like a bit of a cheat. It was a fairly obvious bit of plot misdirection that literally features a rabbit, like the old magicians trick. It stuck in my craw.
When the things that my mind keeps coming back to the most are minor details of set design and character grooming: that rabbit wallpaper and Emily’s knife-sharp haircut, you know there’s trouble. I should care more about the characters and be entranced by the story and I simply wasn’t. There wasn’t enough meat on the story’s bones or enough human (or vampire) connection to merit that. As a whole, the film is as well made as many other films but doesn’t have that visceral connection to me. Because the characters don’t seem to be in the same film with each other, I found it difficult to care about the outcome. Motivations and the plot seemed to shift depending on which way the filmmakers wanted to direct you and in an unfortunately obvious way.
In short, during the run time of BLEED WITH ME, you see the magician placing the rabbit inside of the hat. When the audience sees that, the magic doesn’t work.
BLEED WITH ME had its world premiere at this year’s digital Fantasia International Film Festival.