The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Bleeding House | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Bleeding House

A mysterious stranger arrives at a rural family home.

Directed by: Philip Gelatt
Starring: Alexandra Chando, Nina Lisandrello, Patrick Breen, Richard Bekins

Every once in a while a low budget horror film goes against the grain. In a morass of found footage shaky cam bores and grizzly torture porn efforts that are awash with grue and nihilism, it is always a pleasure to watch a film that foregrounds story and character development. 'The Bleeding House' not only has a half decent story, but also some very serviceable acting, which puts it on a level above most of its direct to DVD peers.
When a stranger in white (Breen) comes knocking at the Smith family's door in rural America, claiming his car has broken down and needing a place to stay, he is met with reticence. However, his ingratiating manner wins them over and they offer him bed and board for the night. Will Nick, the stranger they have let into their house turn out to be their salvation or damnation for sins committed in the past?
There is a sense of unease from the get go in this film, from our introduction to Gloria (Chando), the Smiths' daughter who, on the surface, is an introspective shy loner with a predilection for pinning dead bugs on her wall. Gloria may just be a misunderstood teenage girl, but why do the Smiths feel the need to lock her door from the outside? And why are the sharp knives padlocked up?
When Nick arrives, his courtly manner and Southern gentleman charm wins them over. That he claims to be a Surgeon and tells a sad tale of his family's murder only serves to make them trust and sympathize with him all the more. Even though to an audience he brings to mind the biblical quoting Southern monsters Max Cady from 'Cape Fear' and 'The Night of the Hunter's Harry Powell. It is to Breen's credit that his performance does not disgrace these Southern Gothic archetypes. His Nick is one of those characters that, in film, has you screaming not to let him in; all charm and shit eating grin on the outside and deadly as a viper on the inside. It's clear early on that this “bearer of secret punishments” and “man of ruthless character”  is a serial killer of a biblical bent. But it's the way the story unfolds, and the method of his punishment, that enlivens this slice of American Gothic.
What makes the story interesting is the shades of culpability. This is not a film that moves in black hat, white hat territory. There is a sense of moral compromise to all the characters in the house. That Nick may be dressed as an Angel but behaves like the Devil may be the most obvious "character speaking in forked tongue" does not mean that the Smith's are without sin. In fact, the secret they are protecting may be more deadly than even Nick realizes.
At a brisk 80 minutes, this is more a horror anecdote in the EC comics mode than a fully fleshed story, and if the pacing is on the money, the direction is a trifle pedestrian and unimaginative. What it does have is Breen's mercurial performance and Chando's quietly sinister blank to recommend it.
It may not be particularly scary as a horror and it does rely on the dumb old cops trope to move the plot forward. But if you are in the mood for a moderately gruesome serial killer character drama, with a nifty plot and a sense of enclosed dread, you could do far worse than check out this little gem.

Jason Abbey