The Bleeding House Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
Written and directed by Philip Gelatt
2011, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Alexandra Chando as Gloria
Patrick Breen as Nick
Betsy Aidem as Marilyn
Richard Bekins as Matt
Charlie Hewson as Quentin
Nina Lisandrello as Lynne
Every family has their secrets, some more than others, as is the case with the Smith family. Parents Marilyn (Betsy Aidem) and Matt (Richard Bekins) live with their two teenage children Quentin and Gloria on the outskirts of town following a tragic incident that has left them unwelcome within the community. Despite their best efforts to regain social acceptance, the family is forced to endure a shunned existence. Matt and Marilyn are trying to keep the family together while Matt looks for a job, but son Quentin (Charlie Hewson) offers no assistance, as he has already started planning to escape the town with his girlfriend Lynne (Nina Lisandrello).
Everything changes one night when a stranded motorist appears on their doorstep asking for a place to rest until a mechanic can repair his car the next morning. The stranger, Nick, is welcomed inside and what follows is a psychological test of wills as layers of the Smith family mystery are exposed while the traveler reveals some secrets of his own. Nick (Patrick Breen) joins the family for dinner and is immediately drawn to daughter Gloria (Alexandra Chando), who insists on being called Blackbird. She is shy and withdrawn and has a bizarre hobby of improvised entomology that Nick finds fascinating.
Almost from the beginning it is pretty obvious that nothing is what it seems and everyone has an agenda. Nick finds a decent verbal sparring partner in the downtrodden housewife Marilyn, but has his eyes set on daughter Gloria. There are a few moments of dramatic intensity that are effective but too overly elaborate in execution to withstand close scrutiny. It’s not spoiling anything to say that the visitor has less-than-noble intentions and soon begins spilling blood, but his methods are forced and inconsistent and barely practical.
One thing I cannot stand in movies is when characters incessantly bicker and snipe at one another. There is ample fuss within the Smith family and I was initially relieved when Nick the travelling windbag appeared, but then he opened his mouth and out poured the first of many grating monologues. This honey-tongued devil speaks at great length with an atrocious southern accent that is supposed to come off as warm and inviting, but is merely annoying. Once his character arrives, everybody else had better open a window because this fucker sucks all of the air out of the room with his endless observations and quaint reflections.
Patrick Breen is deeply committed to this character, no matter how silly he appears at times. He truly swings for the fences as the poster child for the Tom Wolfe fan club, complete with white suit and corny observations. Initially he is a welcome outsider to the family proceedings, but instead of bringing some excitement to the situation, this pretentious huckster drones on and on, as if hoping to kill them with an endless parade of clichés that pollute the English language.
The Bleeding House feels like a stage play adapted and expanded into a feature, and it retains a rigid discipline of pacing that would work better in theatre. Luckily the cast is strong and receives solid guidance from first-time director Philip Gelatt. Unfortunately, he also wrote the screenplay and appears married to a lot of the material, which undercuts the end result. Missing from the heart of the script is a basic motivation for the central conflict; either between the characters of Nick and Gloria or as an observation of human behavior from the filmmaker.
The real star of this film is cinematographer Frederic Fasano, a fine artist who has brought beauty into the darkness that fills the past few Dario Argento offerings, including Mother of Tears and Giallo, as well as Asia Argento’s Scarlet Diva. His presence here elevates the material with a playfulness within the shadows that adds a much-needed sense of dread to the proceedings.
The film has been compared to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, and while I can see the similarities, Haneke succeeds (in both versions) in building a suspenseful exercise that delivers a punch to the material where Gelatt squanders a wealth of resources on a lethargic project that only succeeds in boring the audience into submission. A good horror film is only as strong as its villain, and one that wastes your time while channeling the spirit of Foghorn Leghorn is weak.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.