Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bleeding House (2011)

Might I Trouble You For A Few Pints Of Blood?

First time writer/director Philip Gelatt's The Bleeding House is an interesting little indie horror film, putting a twisted spin on the home invasion scenario via some vicious religious fanaticism and judgement a la 2001's Frailty. Oh, crazed bible thumping fanatics, why are you so much scarier than Jason and Freddy? Oh right. Because you actually exist.

The Smiths aren't your average family. Carrying a mysterious burden from their past, the family has been ostracized from the rest of the town, living alone in the country without friends, visitors, or aid (even the police are finicky about dealing with them). Because of The Smith's past, their disturbed daughter, Gloria, is forced to be home schooled, the husband, Matt, is nearly out of a job as a lawyer, the mother, Marilyn, is an emotional wreck, and the eldest child, Quentin, is planning to run away with his girlfriend to escape the family name and everything associated with it. During supper, Matt informs his wife that he wasn't given a big case that could help establish the family's credibility, causing a fight that leaves the family as broken as ever. Out of the blue, a mysterious and fully white suited stranger with a true gentleman's southern accent, shows up at the door and informs Matt that he's had car trouble and graciously asks for a place to stay the night. Believing that this good deed may lead to acceptance from the rest of the community, Matt and Marilyn invite the man, Nick, inside for dinner and a place to sleep. Though Nick may seem off-putting with his mild religious banter and strange sense of humor (he initially informs the family that he's a surgeon with the sentence "I cut people up"), he's a hard guy to dislike. With his polite southern charm and vernacular, Nick shows a great interest in the family's hobbies, be it Marilyn's craft work, Matt's love of football, or even Gloria's morbid collection of dead bugs. The family feels so comfortable that they even begin to mildly touch on their sordid past with Nick. Just as everything is starting to look up, Nick's true motives emerge and the family wakes up to a living nightmare that has been elaborately planned just for them. As the fateful night goes on, The Smith's secrets begin to surface as Nick had planned, but some go far deeper and are more dangerous than he ever imagined.

The first half of The Bleeding House steals the spotlight in my opinion. Sure, we don't get down to the nitty gritty just yet, but the suspense that's built is insurmountable compared to the rest of the film. We know from the get-go that Nick has a hidden agenda, and we know that the family is hiding a secret, but the film toys with our curiosity in a subtle way until it's nearly unbearable. So, is the wait worth the payoff? To an extent. The family's secret wasn't the worst I've ever heard in a movie, as I was assuming this had something to do with their history or bloodline, not just one sole event that occurred in the not-too-distant past. The reason it does work is because of Nick's agenda and execution. When dealing with religious nuts who believe they are the smiting hand of God, they don't need much more than the coveting of neighbor's property to send them off the deep end. Thankfully, this gives us some tense scenes in the second half of the film, with Nick attempting to punish each family member as well as playing cat-and-mouse games with Gloria, whom he takes a particular interest in.

The acting in the film is exceptional for a lower-budget horror film, especially on the parts of Matt (Richard Bekins) and Marilyn (Betsy Aidem), with both actors previously working mostly small roles in big television series. This also goes for Patrick Breen, who brings an eerie charm to the role of the Nick. While a large portion of his roles have been bit parts in television, many of you will recognize him from his work in films like Men In Black and the recent Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Unfortunately, the acting downshifts in the character of Gloria, played by the beautiful Alexandra Chando, who is scripted as such a morbid and disconnected teenager, that she never gets an opportunity to shine, only muttering a few sentences under her breath once in a while. This is a shame because Gloria becomes the film's focus on the second half of the movie and with her character so poorly developed, it's hard to truly give a shit about her outcome. If you want to show a teenager that has psychopathic tendencies, you can do better than having her collect dead bugs and animals, or having her only respond to her family when they address her as "Blackbird". Though I feel that Chando has some great acting abilities, I'm sad that she wasn't given the opportunity to show them off in this film as they were mostly masked by a sulking indifference to everything happening around her.

More like The Reading House, am I right?
With the exception of these things, The Bleeding House is still a suspenseful and uneasy horror film for those looking for something a little different than the usual home invasion fare. With some tense scenes, a good cast, and enough blood loss to make the viewer even feel a few pints short, this will surely be a festival favorite this year.

3/5 Stars

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