When you see enough of a specific type of movie, you can spot certain cues that will set your expectations. I’ve seen my fair share of horror movies, so I’d like to think that I can figure out what I’m getting myself into. If the film I’m watching decides that they need to throw a jump scare five minutes in, it’s safe to say that it’s not going to be a slow burn. Is there a shot of someone in their living room and as the camera pans we can see someone wearing a mask standing in the window? Probably a home invasion movie. When the title for ‘Bleed’ popped up and I noticed that the “L” was an upside down cross, all I could think was “cringe”.
Watching this film is like watching a mashup of a horror fan’s DVD shelf. Individually, the moments that make up ‘Bleed’ are decent, and have been done well in other films, but there either wasn’t the talent or the money (possibly both) to successfully execute these moments. Each scene feels forced, out of place, and somehow bland. It’s the cinematic equivalent of pouring water on your cereal. A great idea isn’t great in and of itself. An idea needs to do more than merely exist. It needs to fit organically into a work to truly shine. A kangaroo with a flamethrower is an amazing idea, but a Flamgaroo wouldn’t fit in a serious Holocaust drama. Don’t get me wrong, I’d watch the shit out of that movie, but I’d never say it’s good.
So, if ‘Bleed’ is just a horror movie greatest hits album, what could possible be wrong with it? Let me “Apple Maps” the plot for you and let me know when it drives your brain into the fucking ocean. Sarah and Matt (Chelsey Crisp and Michael Steger) invite their friend Bree and her boyfriend Dave (Brittany Ishibashi and Elimu Nelson) to see their new house. Sarah’s fuck up brother Eric and his hippy girlfriend Skye (Riley Smith and Lyndon Smith) drop by. Then there’s a bunch of bullshit drama, the friends have fuck all to do with anything, but then everyone wants to go to the local burned down prison to hunt for ghosts! Because, reasons…I guess. There they find that the ruined building is haunted…kind of. It also contains a weird cult altar…kind of. Everyone wants to leave except Eric because he and his sister were assaulted by ghosts as kids, so he wants to prove that they exist. Except the ghost is friendly, except when he’s not, and the cult is bad, which is after Sarah because she has a birthmark, which is important for some reason that we’re never told. Also the cult uses a symbol that matches the bracelet that Eric bought at some during his travels. So the cult which is mainly the redneck police force are also…hippies? I don’t know, but the movie made this connection like it was a big reveal, so that’s my takeaway.
Did you get all that? Because there’s more and it’s all stupid. Like when Skye is freaked out and wants to leave the prison, but apparently not too freaked out to immediately fuck Eric is the very same room she was begging to get away from. Or when Casper the friendly ghost kills Dave for no apparent reason. By the way, he kills people with ghost punches. GHOST PUNCHES!
I’m okay with a dumb story filled with plot holes where unintentionally silly things happen, but it seems like the movie gets fed up with itself and gives up about halfway through. I’m not just talking about the story either. The actors start strong, and while they were playing simple stock characters, felt real. Once their characters started going against their own archetype in order to fulfill a forced situation, it felt like everyone stopped giving a shit. Even though everything was contrived, I was onboard at first. A “by the numbers” movie doesn’t annoy me. By the halfway point however, I was checked out.
I hate to bring this up because I know the movie’s budget was small (around $550,000 according to IMDB), but everything felt cheap. The locations felt like they were picked because they were close to a producer’s house. The prison, the main “creepy” area isn’t, closed off and claustrophobic like the asylum in ‘Session 9’, or even the prison/asylum in ‘The Funhouse Massacre’. Instead, it’s an open air ruin allowing all the sunlight (yup, they go during the day) to illuminate the area. There’s a downstairs portion, but even that is well lit. It says a lot about a movie if it can creep you out in broad daylight, but it says a lot about a movie if it fails as well. Mostly what is says is “stupid decision” and “didn’t have enough money to shoot enough night shots”. It feels like this location was nearby, easy to access, and “good enough”, which is never good enough.
You know what else isn’t good enough? Shitty overused royalty free sound effects. There’s a scene where a car flips over and rather than record the actor scream and insert it (or do nothing, which is perfectly fine during a car accident), they insert a cheap, cheesy stock scream, not once, but twice. Terrible scream inside the car, then the repeated terrible scream outside the car. This one is bad, but not nearly as awful as the one time the ghost disappears and you hear a twinkling fairy dust sound effect. That scene was apparently brought to you by Disney.
Then there’s the editing. Dear meth addicted, trailer park Christ, the editing. It’s jerky, uneven, and in some cases, baffling. There one scene involving a jump scare where Skye sits up in a bathtub. We see the close up from above of her emerging from the water, then a medium shot from beside the tub, the ANOTHER beside the tub shot of her emerging. Did the editor forget to remove one of the takes? Did the filmmakers actually like the composition of this scene? If these seem like problems, get used to them. ‘Bleed’ loves to abruptly cut away either to new angles or to new scenes without letting the audience know where they are.
Some of you might be rolling their eyes and thinking that I’m being too harsh on the film since they’re just using what’s available to fit their budget. To that I say, other movies, with smaller budgets knock it out of the fucking park. The aforementioned ‘Session 9’ only cost 1.5 million, which is three times the budget of this movie, but miniscule compared to just about every movie ever. Want something smaller? How about ‘The Blair Witch Project’? At only $60,000 it nailed the tone and set up an interesting premise. It became iconic.
Still not good enough? Want me to name something that wasn’t picked up and given an advertising budget? Brad Jones’s ‘The Cinema Snob Movie’. It cost about $20,000 to make, has better ADR and editing, and the story isn’t a confusing mess. This is from a YouTube critic with around 50,000 subscribers and no connection to any one in the movie business. If you say “Well, he probably just has more talent”, THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT! Make better movies or find someone who can!