All too often the terms “low budget”, “first time director”, and “independent effort” are often equated to bumbling, amateurish failures. Not in this case. Newcomer on the scene, writer and director Philip Gelatt, bucks that trend with THE BLEEDING HOUSE – and gives us what we have all been asking for time and time again. A simple and original take on the FUNNY GAMES-like killer-enters-the-house scenario, the pic comes across practical, subtly artistic, well scripted, and sharply played – like something you would catch in a theater, or absorb as a character rich novel.
In THE BLEEDING HOUSE, the Smith family has taken up residence in the outside part of a small rural area, having to live down a dark past that haunts them every day; an average surname, with a not so average history, longing for normalcy. According to common knowledge, Mrs. Smith burned down the Belle house, after being scorned and discarded aside following an affair with the patriarch of the victimized family. She accidentally caused a fire, and was the only one to escape. Everyone else in the home burned to death, and perished.
But as with all good stories, what is on the surface is not exactly what happened. And if you take the time to sit for 87 minutes, you will find out the truth – and more specifically, why the doors are locked, and why the event cannot be so easily lived down. After we are introduced to the feel of the Smith family, enter Nick – a stranger in a white coat, white hat, and medical bag – a self-proclaimed surgeon – who tells of having broken down on a desolate road nearby. He is seeking shelter for the night, and reluctantly, the Smith family brings him in for an overnight stay until a mechanic can get to the car the following morning.
I wont tell you much more as THE BLEEDING HOUSE’s strength lay is in the muscle of its mystery, as the family becomes trapped by our ensuing killer, and the onion of their complicated past is unraveled before our eyes. The characters are simple, but intriguing as a whole, like a puzzle whose picture is divulged as it all comes together. There is the son, who wants desperately to start over, and live a normal life. His girlfriend, who is by his side, and ready to leave when he is. There is the mother, who carries the heavy weight of what she’s done, and the lawyer father, who got her off the hook and kept her out of jail. And then there is the wild card, Gloria – who will only answer to “Blackbird”. She is dark and different and sullen, and often locked in her room – as she likes to go out in the night to a secret spot in the woods, where she collects bones and other boney objects, like the insects she has pinned to the wall of her bedroom.
Enter into this house, the stranger in trouble, Nick, who seems religious and innocent enough upon first glance. Yet, the more he speaks of his own complicated past, and the more he shares gazes with Blackbird across the dinner table, she begins to smell something familiar – something odd – about this random traveler. He speaks in metaphoric tongue, claiming to have helped people trapped in darkness, preaching that “wearing a mask is no way to find peace”, and self proclaiming himself later to be “the nagging conscious of a moral-less country” – truly believing the “work” he is doing to be the work of God, and that if there were more people like him, perhaps there could exist a world purged of all its evil. Wonder now, as the mother does, why is traveling with a Holy Bible and surgical instruments in his bag.
Final analysis: you can add or subtract a skull in the rating, depending on what type of horror fan you are. If you’re the type who prefers CGI and mindless, graphic violence, or hoping to catch the special effects kill of the year to rave about, subtract one or two. You’ll still get your slit throats, bashed heads, and gore (intricately detailed by Monster in My Closet FX and Jeremy Selenfriend), yet THE BLEEDING HOUSE is a domestic horror story that director Philip Gelatt sees as more of a suspense thriller (as writer David Seltzer thought of his own religious tale, THE OMEN) – one built on characters, their relationships and the darkness between them all. THE BLEEDING HOUSE trades in the traditional horror aspects for a rich story played out by quality acting (particularly that of Nick (Patrick Breen), and Gloria / “Blackbird” (Alexandra Chandro) who nail this to the wall of your mind much like the bugs in her room). Those of you who enjoy the thinking side of the genre will appreciate this and probably want to add a skull to my rating. You’ll be able to drain this tale of its rich, intellectual properties, much like the killer does – by the gallon.