Bleed With Me — Amelia Moses’ debut feature produced by True Sweetheart Films — is a psychological thriller making its premiere at Fantasia Festival. But despite positing itself as a thriller, much of the tension that contributes to the genre is lost in the film’s character dynamics, or lack thereof.
At the start of the film, we’re introduced Emily (Lauren Beatty), a meek woman that appears to be afraid to step on toes but eager to build deep relationships, and her co-worker Rowan (Lee Marshall, also a producer on the film). The story begins as we see Emily asleep in a car on the way to her family’s cabin for some time away, accompanied by her boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros) and Rowan.
The cabin setting is great, and reminiscent of recent ‘cabin-fever’ thrillers and horror films such as The Lodge and Goodnight Mommy. It reinforces the plot, which centers on how Rowan begins to close in on herself, revealing self-destructive and paranoid tendencies as she loses trust in Emily — who Rowan fears is stealing her blood and using it for wickedness or perhaps even cannibalistic incentives. But the film lacks exposition to give us understanding of this paranoia and help us get invested. While we know that Emily and Rowan are connected through work and that Brendan is Emily’s boyfriend, the lack of narrative dilutes any possibility of believing these characters have ever even met before they stepped foot in the cabin.
Lee Marshall performs stunningly as she plays an increasingly sick and delusional Rowan, but little is shown in the film to allow us to follow her mental instability. She wakes from dream states and sleepwalks through nightmares of Emily bringing about her physical demise, but it’s hard to parse the sustainability of her breakdown in the context of her past.
In addition to this, the film attempts to introduce a secondary source of tension by building Emily up as a troubled, bloodthirsty villain by also adding glimpes of her past — they are in her family cabin, after all. The attempt falls flat, and doesn’t offer any concrete understanding of the importance of her family trauma, or even why she and Rowan have attached themselves to one another in the undetermined amount of time they’ve spent together.
In the end, Bleed With Me does leave the audience reveling in Marshall’s effective performance, but is insufficient in tying up the knots to let us in on the reality of Rowan’s delusional perspective. Part of the beauty of psychological thrillers and horror films is that they often are rooted in the well-established fears of the characters, and expand on those fears to hurl them into mental episodes and speculation. Yet, this is where Bleed With Me’s shortcomings lie.