Rewind Review: 2011’s ‘The Bleeding House’

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The Bleeding House is a unique Home-Invasion Horror movie with slasher elements.  It’s a moody, understated film with an almost literary quality, reminding this blogger of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates and John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums.

Check out my review after the jump.

Official Synopsis: Meet the Smiths parents, Marilyn (Betsy Aidem) and Matt (Richard Bekins, Limitless), and teens, Gloria (Alexandra Chando, As The World Turns), 16, and Quentin (Charlie Hewson, Holy Rollers), 18 – a family full of secrets who keep themselves to themselves. When a sweet-talking Texan (Patrick Breen, Eli Stone, Radio) first arrives on the doorstep of their back-road Midwestern home, his calm, outgoing nature and particular brand of neighborly Christian philosophy seems to be just the remedy the Smith family needs. As the stranger s true motivations come to light, however, he emerges as a cold, driven killer, who thinks he has been sent straight from God to serve punishment upon the family for their past.  What follows in this tightly wound and visceral horror/thriller is a desperate game of cat and mouse between the stranger and his prey. Will he succeed in his goal to bleed them of their sins or will the family s haunted past prove to be even more deadly than he bargained for? The Bleeding House is a terrifying portrait of how the sins of one can stain an entire family.

Patrick Breen plays Nick, the “sweet talking Texan”.  He looks and sounds like he walked straight out of a Tennessee Williams play; he sports an all white suit with matching hat and every world out of his mouth is drenched in Capote-esque eloquence.  Sure, he’s the epitome of the traveling snake-oil salesman or some other such shyster, but he’s got a disarming sincerity about him that’s almost hypnotic.  And everybody knows you should never open your home to a stranger who arrives at dusk claiming car-troubles, but you can’t stand in Nick’s glowing presence, absorbing his charming witticisms without warming up to him.  It’s these qualities and his ability to inspire immediate trust, I suspect, that makes him such a dangerous psychopath.

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So what kind of family invites such a stranger into their home, not just to use the phone or have some dinner, but to spend the night?  The Smiths.  Surprisingly, these guys aren’t especially trusting or friendly.  Fact of the matter is, this family is so dysfunctional that they probably welcomed Nick in as a distraction from their regularly scheduled misery.  Matt is an unemployed Lawyer who’s wife Marilyn had an affair.  Gloria has scars on her wrists and her brother Matt can’t wait to leave them all behind, because anywhere is better than where he is now.  To say they walk on eggshells is an understatement–and the fact that all the kitchen knives are kept in a locked drawer speaks volumes.  This Smiths are little more than cast-outs from their community, isolated and wretchedly depressed.  “Yes stranger, please come in and save me from the torturous drudgery that is my hideous life!”

Of course it’s a decision they’ll regret for the rest of their significantly shortened lives.  It isn’t long before Nick shows the Smiths his true colors–in addition to a leather bag filled with antique medical equipment.  He’s created a unique system for dispatching his victims, a process of exsanguination that involves a sputtering chrome machine with pressure gages.  But even as his intensions become crystal clear, his motivations remain cloudy.  It is only through the revelation of the Smith’s darkest secrets that Nick reveals his singular driving purpose.  But who is this man in white?  Who is he really?

Christ or avenging angel?  The white attire and religious convictions support that theory (along with the tattoo under his ribs)–but then again, that’s also how they portrayed Satan in Constantine.  Is he even a real person?  He could be a manifestation of Karma, a family member’s disembodied alter-ego, or even a demon summoned by the palpable stench of the family’s despair.  He certainly looks out-of-time, from another world, perhaps a tandem or parallel universe.  Sure, on the surface, there’s nothing in The Bleeding House that confirms or even implies a supernatural explanation for Nick or his mission.  But like the best examples of literature and short-fiction, this film allows for multiple interpretations of the characters portrayed.  Nick may be nothing more than a smooth-talking sociopathic egomaniac, but he’s rich in subtext; more than just a mere mortal, but a symbol of something greater (and much darker).

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There is a mystery at the core of The Bleeding House, something beyond Nick’s backstory or the Smiths’ past sins–and it has to do with Gloria.  She’s an extreme introvert and the most tragic member of the family.  In addition to the scars on her wrists, there’s something utterly haunting behind her eyes.  It’s no wonder that Nick quickly finds himself quite enamored with her.  Is she just another victim for the man in white, or does he have other plans?  Could he possibly believe that he’s saving her?  While there’s no big reveal, never an “Aha” moment, everything is revealed in time, like an image slowly coming into focus.

The Bleeding House is more about the characters than the action; the plot seems constructed around the key symbolic moments and doesn’t always make sense.  There’s a touch of surrealism that emerges in the 3rd Act, giving the entire film a dreamlike quality.  But in the end, The Bleeding House fails to deliver any significant dread or serious creepiness.  Nick’s just too smooth too be terrifying, his pontification too flowery to be fearsome.  I like all the ingredients (the dysfunctional family and the smooth-talking stranger), but I can’t help feeling like they could have been cooked up together better.  As far as it’s place in the Home Invasion subgenre, this one lacks the hardcore violence most people associate with it; it also lacks the intensity.  I guess you could call it Slow-burn.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

I was never bored, but I wasn’t bowled over either.  I like it but I didn’t love it.  Still, it’s the kind of movie that sticks with you long after the credits roll.  It won’t keep you up at night, but it just might sit under your skin for a bit.

3 out of 5 Skull Heads.

Trailer: HERE

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Directed by Philip Gelatt
Produced by Peter Askin
Will Battersby
Per Melita
Tory Tunnell
Written by Philip Gelatt
Screenplay by Philip Gelatt
Starring Alexandra Chando,
Patrick Breen,
Charlie Hewson
Studio Reno Productions
Safehouse Pictures
Cinergy Pictures
Release dates
  • April 20, 2011
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About Saucy Josh

I write a blog for intelligent Horror movie aficionados called Blood and Guts for Grown Ups: https://bloodandgutsforgrownups.wordpress.com/ View all posts by Saucy Josh

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