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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Philip Gelatt's The Bleeding House is a compelling, odd piece of horror
cinema. One wonders what, exactly, the director was thinking during
production, and furthermore if it would have turned out better or worse
if he succeeded in creating his perfect vision.
From the dysfunctional Smith family dinner at the start, something just seems uncomfortable, unnatural even. The stilted dialogue between parents, son and laconic daughter makes the viewer wary of the acting talentor is this just a form of stylization? The near-muteness of daughter Gloria (Alexandra Chando) appears to be the only natural, believable presence at the table, which is ironic (yet effective) seeing how she is constantly referred to as "strange" as the plot ensues.
Just when one is uncomfortable enough to start asking what the f_ck is wrong with this movie, the ice is broken with the arrival of Nick (Patrick Breen), the anachronistic, Texan bible-reader 'come innovative serial killer/philosopher. Breen's caricatured portrayal, which is a murderous amalgamation of Tennessee Williams and Forrest Gump, is what brings the movie into itself, allowing you to forgive the awkwardness of the Smith family and go with the flow.
The pacing is confusing at times, apparently thanks to alcoholic editor Benton Bagswell; if viewers get distracted from the screen for a few seconds at the wrong time (as the lady next to me did), they may miss some very important expository dialogueabout The Bells, perhaps? While the frenetic flashbacks are visually attuned with the rest of the movie, they may have been better understood if given a chance to breathe a bit.
Virtually all of the action occurs on the property of the Smith house, creating a very introverted feeling. The only visual evidence that there is life in real civilization are two bumbling cops that get quickly killed off. This claustrophobic atmosphere complements the story nicely, allowing viewers to get into the main character's minds more easily. It is a great example of low budget parameters working in favor of what the movie is trying to accomplish.
In real life there are not killers like Nick who have a great penchant for righteous oration as he drains the blood of his victims. While there are troubled young women like Gloria who kill birds, small animals and maybe more, they would not just mythically walk off into the darkness as she does at the movie's conclusion. Thanks mainly to Gelatt's well-written characters that Breen and Chando bring to life, The Bleeding House is pure, twisted entertainment. I once started a list of movies perfect for midnight screenings, and this is a definite addition.