Monday, March 6, 2017

BLEED (2016) [Paul's Review]

Bleed splits neatly into two categories.  On one side is STUFF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND.  And on the other is THE PLOT.   Bleed excels in keeping each from having anything to do with the other. 

(1) Passive Aggressive Relationships
(2) Peer Pressure
(3) Untimely Horniness

THE PLOT includes . . .
. . . Hmmm.  This is really difficult to put into a list.  It’s really apples and oranges.  Or apples and BLOOD oranges, amirite?  Ok, here goes, but this ain’t going to be close:  

 (1)  A Cult
(2)  A Morally Conflicted Killer Ghost/Fireball/DNA Experiment
(3)  A woman standing in a field, screaming
(4)  ????
(5)  Profit!

Look, let’s come back to the plot later.  Because to try to understand it would require a liberal loosening of our regard for consistency and logic, and once that genie is out of the bottle, it might turn into a vindictive fireball and attack us right as we are trying to deliver the goddamn (adjective, not expletive) baby.  Look, like I said, let’s come back to the plot later. 

I found the STUFF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND kind of endearing in a generic sort of way. 
A young yuppie couple (is that still a term?) moves into a house in the sticks.  The wife, Sarah, (Chelsey Crisp, best known for playing the neighbor in Fresh Off The Boat) is profoundly pregnant.  The husband/doctor, Matt (Michael Steiger) is a walking Banana Republic outfit with trendy glasses. 

They are joined by the wife’s friend, Bree, who is schizophrenic but has been responsibly taking her meds.  With her is Bree’s boyfriend who used to play football but then had a back injury and now he doesn’t drink beer.  And Sarah’s brother shows up unannounced with his girlfriend, Skye.  Skye is a vegetarian.  They are new-age hippies who are trying to record spirits on a special radioshack device.  But that’s skating a little close to the plot.   The point is, you've got a bunch of nice looking 30 somethings with enough quirks to pass for character. 

Sarah and Matt do not have a fully happy marriage.  The husband catches the wife writing a check to her drifter brother and disapproves by silently muttering snide things at the floor.  The wife gives a whole barrel of sideeye when she stumbles onto him hanging out with a partially nude Skye.

Though the whole ordeal was supposed to be a fun group weekend, the wife finds herself driving back to her house alone after dropping everyone off at the haunted, burned-down prison.  Her eyes well up with tears.  She didn’t want it that way.  She wanted to be cool, and now she's all alone. She has passive aggressed herself into spite-driving.  

And then a ghost appears in the passenger seat, says “boo” or something like, and she flips her truck.  Having flipped the truck, she gets out and wanders her profoundly pregnant self, not down the road, but into the woods.  But all of this belongs on the PLOT side of things, with which reason and understanding have nothing to do.  And we’ll get back to that!

So how did it come to this?  Well, the answer is another thing I can understand: peer pressure.  The brother wants to go to the burned-down prison.  Bree doesn’t want to.  The husband doesn’t want to.  They pow-wow over the whole thing around the picnic table.  And the peer pressure is laid on thick.  Someone says: “It’s cool.  It’s fun.  It’s no big deal.”  I am sure that this direct quote comes out of my D.A.R.E. handbook.  Having forgotten their resistance education, they all head out to the burned down prison.  It’s no big deal.

At the prison, creepy shit starts going down.  Skye starts freaking out.  She really wants to leave.  It’s turned into a BIG DEAL for her.  And I gotta give it to the actress, Lyndon Smith, who acts her belly button ring off in this scene; she’s actually pulling it off (the scene, not the ring--the ring stays on even despite a weird moment when you think the boyfriend might pull it off (the ring, not the scene) when gripped by passion) until she’s tasked with having to act the impossible.

What’s the impossible here, you ask?

Director:  Your boyfriend has dragged you down into the basement of a burned-out prison in the middle of nowhere.  You are frightened.  You hear a loud noise and a gust of wind nearly knocks the two of you over while your reading the cryptic cult book you’ve found that is written in blood.  You are terrified.  You want to leave NOW.

Actress:  OK, so why don’t I leave?  Am I worried about my boyfriend?  Am I scared to go alone?

Director:  Well, sort of.  The thing is, being terrified has made you unaccountably HORNY.  And you want to jump your boyfriend right there, right now!

Actress:  I’m terrified and horny?  How do those two go together?  How am I supposed to act that?

Director:   I don't know, just think of England?

Ok, so much for the STUFF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND.  Do you want to foray down the path of the PLOT?  It's so scary it will make you horny.

There’s a backwoods cult.  They have a thing for women with moon-shaped birthmarks.  No one knows why.

The wife has a moon-shaped birthmark.  Apparently they want her and her baby.  No one knows why.

But there’s also the ghost of a girl from 1979 who had the same birthmark.  She’s got a red fro thing going on.  Apparently the cult captured her, but then the main baddie, a guy they call the preacher, let her go.  The preacher ends up in jail and is burned to death.  He’s also some kind of DNA experiment.  Now HE’S a ghost as well.  And he’s sort of a good ghost in that he’s trying to protect the moon-shaped birthmark woman.  Except that he’s also sort of a bad ghost in that he’s killing all of her friends. 

But it isn’t clear that red fro is a good ghost either, since she caused the pregnant protagonist to drive off the road.  Really, the ghosts in this movie are frustratingly inconsistent.  

And so the cult is out after the moon-shaped birthmark woman, and someone, either the cult or one of the bipolar ghosts, is dismembering her friends and mounting them in rooms around the burned out prison.   

There’s a bunch of skulls on a floor.  

There’s Frisbee.  

There’s an extra that wandered into the shoot from a post-apocalyptic movie, carrying a lantern, standing in the middle of a field, screaming. 

The cult keeps referring to the woman as the vessel.  They are trying to get the vessel.  Dead. 

This, in particular, left me scratching my noggin.  I wrote down in the completely useless notes I was taking: “Why are they shooting at the vessel?  And what vessel for what?  And why was that other thing, oh, nevermind.”

I don’t remember what I was referring to, but it isn’t important, because this is what you need to know:  despite its inanity, I found myself kind of liking Bleed despite my humanity.  Words fail me as to why.  I think it’s because it’s set up as another jump-scare-filled character-driven haunted house story, but then it takes a HARD LEFT into batshit country.   

It switches things up so quick, and so often, that you never quite feel sure of yourself.  Is this ghost trying to save me, or kill me, or both?  Are you really scared or just thirsty AF?  Are you a ghost or a fireball, and are you a fireball because of the DNA experiment or because you died in a fire or because “fireball” was an animation that came with your CGI software bundle?   What are the goddamn (expletive, not adjective) rules here?

In the end, like a passive aggressive relationship, there are no rules or coherent accountability. [Bleed replies: Go ahead, have fun at my expense, I’m just glad I can be “incoherent” enough for you to laugh at.]


1.  Skye stabs her boyfriend in the neck.  A few minutes later, he’s totally cool with it.  Is he just so used to passive aggressive behavior that he like doesn’t even register actual aggressive behavior?

JD: Dude, passive aggressive chicks are the worst. If a girl is direct with you, like a bro you can bang, you'll put up with almost anything. Especially if she stabs you on the right side of the neck. That's the chill side to get stabbed on.

2.  One of the backwoods cultists asks “Your body speaking at you?”  What is the most passive aggressive thing your body has ever spoke at you?

JD: "Oh you don't want to work out? That's fine. Hey, look at this huge belly I found. Guess I'll put this on. Forever."

3.  Is it a bad sign for the pregnancy if you’re coughing up dirt?  Or is eating dirt the secret to having an organic baby?

JD: If it doesn't have ibuprofen or caffeine in it, then says it's fine. 

4.  How the hell did the fireball demon ghost NOT win?

JD: I think it's because his parents didn't immediately respond when he was crying as an infant. Or his mom ate caffeinated dirt. 

For my answers to Joe's questions, check out his review of Bleed.

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