Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Bleed

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Directed and edited by Tripp Rhame
Spitfire Studios / Gravitas Ventures / MVD Visual
82 minutes, 2016

In an attempt to reach for some originality these days, some features try to combine a bunch of different subgenres together to create something new. Sometimes it fails to work in any of the classifications, let alone a new one. On the other hand, the rare one comes along that takes you by surprise by giving you something that catches your eye and raises an eyebrow.

Bleed definitely falls into that latter group. Director Tripp Rhame takes us on a shady side of rural Atlanta, including a mysterious Civil War-era house (with a round tower – I love those) and a burned down prison, which is actually a real place giving credence to the story and a bona fide creepy vibe, amid its trash and graffiti’d walls. This is especially true when the cast leaves the roofless upper floor, and goes down to the level of the relatively still intact cells.

Couple A
So, a couple (Sarah and Matt, aka Couple A) who are expecting a baby shortly, unknowingly move to a rural area in the south that has some The Wicker Man / Rosemary’s Baby / Grave Encounters vibe secret Satanistic-type sect happening. They are joined by her best friend and new beau (Bree and Dave, or Couple B), and her wayward brother and new (to Couple A) bohemian girlfriend (Eric and Skye: Couple C) for a weekend at the house. I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful cast overall I’ve seen in a while. Not only that, but each of the eight principles have a bubbling under career that is about to pop, and have made some noise in mainstream Hollywood and beyond.

Couple A is Chelsea Crisp (from “Fresh Off the Boat”) and Michael Steger (The Magnificent Seven remake), Couple B comprises Brittany Isibashi (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) and Elimu Nelson (Love Don’t Cost a Thing), and Couple C is made of Lyndon Smith (“Parenthood”) and Riley Smith (“Frequency,” “True Blood,” “Nashville” and the “90210” remake). These are some heavy hitters. And if that wasn’t enough, the local scarred deputy is played by none other than David Yow, more commonly known as the lead singer of the punk band The Jesus Lizard.

As with most films about a group, even in their 30s, the males tend to be a bit on the tool side. One is a stoner who won’t listen when warned by his scared girlfriend, one keeps yelling “boo” and trying to scare his partner in the name of a joke after she asks him to stop, and the third is trying to control his partner through anger and guilt. I must add that on the level of most of the “asshole guys” genre paradigm goes, this one is relatively tame, but there were a few times when I said, out loud, “Really?!” at their behavior. The women are all relatively strong(er) characters – even with one being diagnosed as bi-polar – but part of their problem is that the guys just won’t heed their advice. To the Bro reading this, it’s true that part of the reason why the women in your life insist that they are right is because most of the time they are. If they say they need to leave, go with ‘em. Especially if you’re in this kind of situation… so, let’s continue on with the basic plot:

Rajinda Kala as the vengeful Kane
Learning that there is a prison somewhere in the vicinity that burned down with the inmates still inside in 1979, the men decide to check it out, bringing the women with them. There they run into spookies both of the deceased type and of the local yee-haw cult kind. While some of the horror is telegraphed so you see it coming, it still suffices to say that this is a genuinely creepy film, considering the amount of overused tropes that are employed, such as walking through creepy buildings with flashlights, which is wisely done in small doses at a time, and the torch is not the only light source, a pet peeve of mine (i.e., you can still see peripherally somewhat beyond the beam).

Have to say, the effects are top-notch and creepy as hell (with arguably one exception where the prosthetic didn’t adequately match the source person; not going to give away who), and my only real complaint is about the lighting, that it is a bit dark when we see the physical SFX, which makes it harder to appreciate the incredible handiwork it deserves (might want to back up a bit and use freeze-frame, as I did). There are both appliances and digital at work here, and it’s done quite well and worth the attention you should give it.

Couple C
As these are young but seasoned actors, it should come as no surprise that the method is superb. What’s nice about this kind of film is that the cast has experience, but are still not there yet in their careers where they are holding out for huge paychecks. Some have worked together before; plus, as we learn from the extras (more about that later), the three “couples” bonded and became good friends in the real world, and that camaraderie definitely shows in the final product. They are willing to take chances with their characters in security and trust with/in their fellow thespians.

Even with the few clichés and story parts that come as no surprise, again, this is a nice suspenseful piece that flew by, and has just the right amount of tension to keep you on your toes without becoming wearisome. It’s enjoyable throughout.

The extras are, essentially, a series of fun interviews lasting from five to ten minutes between the lead actors (sans one, though Yow is included to make up for it) and the director; however, there are two of Crisp, who is the lead.

What I find hard to believe is that this is director Rhame’s first feature. He’s been in the business for a while and has his own production company in Georgia. That learning experience shows in this final product. I’m certainly hoping that he continues creating films, and perhaps even gets some wider distribution, because if this is any indication, we have some great stories to watch ahead of us.

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