Essentially highbrow torture porn decked out in arty Southern-gothic trappings, writer/director Phillip Gelatt’s debut feature, The Bleeding House, never quite lives up to the potential of its intriguing concept due to contrived dialogue, stiff performances, and flat direction. Alas, not even a fairly magnetic centerpiece performance from star Patrick Breen proves strong enough to hold this rickety house together since the screenplay works against him, and by the time his character has his throat cut yet continues to spout off inane, pseudo-religious dialogue, the plot has already fallen into a hopeless purgatory with little hope for redemption.
As the Smith family struggles to break free of the lingering stigma that turned them into small-town pariahs, smooth-talking Southern gentlemen Nick (Breen) shows up on their doorstep claiming that he needs a place to sleep for the night because his car has broken down. Later, at the dinner table, a casual conversation between Nick, father Matt (Richard Bekins), mother Marilyn (Betsy Aidem), and daughter Gloria (Alexandra Chando) quickly turns dark, hinting at something deeply sinister hidden just beneath the surface of the Smiths’ picture-perfect home. Meanwhile, brother Quentin (Charlie Hewson) and his girlfriend, Lynne (Nina Lisandrello), hatch a plan to leave their small town behind for a fresh start elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Smiths, Nick has other plans. But later, as the true nature of the family's dark past becomes known, the unwanted intruder realizes that he may be in over his head.
Like many small-budget horror films, The Bleeding House suffers from a crippling disconnect between idea and execution. It’s obvious that Gelatt had a particularly clear vision for what he wanted his film to be, but his lack of experience as a director ultimately prevents him from successfully translating that vision to the screen. While the concept that drives The Bleeding House is a strong one, the performances that Gelatt coaxes from his actors are as stodgy as the stilted dialogue that creeps in every time one of the characters attempts to telegraph a crucial story point. Additionally, scenes that foreshadow important plot developments (such as the mother taking a shotgun out from under her bed, gazing at it, and then carefully sliding it back in place) are so awkwardly shoehorned into the mix that they pull us out of the action and stall the momentum.
However, it’s the performances that are the primary factor that prevents The Bleeding House from truly connecting. It’s as if Gelatt was so obsessed with ensuring that his villain came off exactly as he envisioned that he neglected his other actors. As a result, the family feels more artificial than haunted, and the character dynamics that should have been compelling never quite spring to life. It’s a shame, too, since the “twist” at the center of this dark tale raises some interesting questions about motherly love and the sacrifices a parent makes to protect a child. Gelatt certainly has a gift for conceiving an interesting story and compelling characters (especially in the case of the villain); if only his directorial chops matched his storytelling skills, The Bleeding House might have actually tapped a vein, rather than suffering a slow death by hemorrhage.
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- Released: 2011
- Review: Essentially highbrow torture porn decked out in arty Southern-gothic trappings, writer/director Phillip Gelatt’s debut feature, The Bleeding House, never quite lives up to the potential of its intriguing concept due to contrived dialogue, stiff performance… (more)