Making friends is never easy...
...Well, maybe it is for some lucky people, but for a lot of us it’s hard to put ourselves out there and form a connection with another person, especially when you don’t know who can be trusted. Bleed With Me, a psychological horror film written and directed by Amelia Moses, is at its core a story about the complicated and newly formed friendship between two women.
Moses’s acclaimed short Undress Me premiered at the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival in their ‘Born of Women’ selection, and this year her new feature Bleed With Me has made it's World Premiere at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. In it we follow Rowan (Lee Marshall), a shy and seemingly fragile young woman, who has been invited to spend time with Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros). The three of them travel to an isolated cabin owned by Emily’s family for a winter getaway together, but when Rowan wakes up one morning with mysterious incisions on her arms she grows paranoid and slowly becomes convinced her friend is stealing her blood.
The question is, is it her friend she can’t trust, or her own mind?
Set in the dead of winter, confined to a small cabin in the secluded woods, with characters that are isolated mentally as well as physically, everything about this film feels cold and lonely. These elements are only amplified by the cinematography by René Arseneau, who captures both the beauty and terror in the incredible visuals of this somber story, while the score by Dominic Caterina beautifully juxtaposed the moments of haunting melancholy with the arresting intensity of ever growing sinister darkness.
The main cast delivers remarkably captivating performances and brought those layered characters to life, particularly Marshall and Beatty, who portray incredibly nuanced characters and manage to show emotional depth without doing too much.
Rowan and Emily are polar opposites in terms of personality, the former being a quiet outsider, while the latter is seemingly perfect with a romantic relationship that is almost too great. While Rowan is sympathetic and Emily is charming, Marshall and Beatty do a great job of keeping us wondering whether it’s about Rowan’s mind or Emily’s intentions.
Their friendship is new and as it is in real life it’s awkward at first, but interlaced with moments of tenderness as the connection between them grows, and the more substantial the relationship becomes the more it has the capacity for turning into something dangerous.
It’s clear upon meeting Rowan that she is a very anxious person, and that she isn’t sure if she can trust Emily, but it’s also obvious that she is lonely and desperate for a friend. As someone that has always felt like an outsider looking in, I found Rowan painfully relatable at times, which made what she experiences feel all the more real and disorientating to me.
Even though there is a romantic relationship shown it’s never what we’re focused on in this story, and it’s refreshing to see a film where the most important relationship is a platonic and realistic one between two women. I believe that more films should show the value of friendships and the impact these connections can have on someone’s life, as they’re often overshadowed and reduce secondary characters to nothing but sidekicks that are caricatures of themselves. I am happy to say that is not the case here.
As the title suggests there is some blood, but I warn you not to go into this expecting a gore fest or a story that relies on jump scares. This is as much a drama as it is a horror, a character focused and psychological slow burn that will crawl beneath your skin and leave you thinking about it for a long while after the credits have rolled. Bleed With Me is a beautiful and unsettling exploration of what happens when trust becomes paranoia, and friendship turns into an obsession. And it will leave you wondering, how well do you really know your friends?
In Bleed with Me, Moses delivers a well-paced story that is as interesting as it is unnerving. She is definitely a director I’ll be looking out for in the future and I’m excited to see what she does next.
By Dani Vanderstock