Bleed With Me

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bleed With Me
"Whilst a less skilled filmmaker might have added a sexual connotation to this, Moses opts for something simpler and yet more intangible." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

There have been two very distinctive takes on the vampire movie at Fantasia 2020. Darkly witty Seventies pastiche Climate Of The Hunter has a lot to offer to older viewers. This one, by contrast, focuses on the teenagers we're used to seeing getting their necks bitten into in the genre, but has a very different tone from other works aimed at that age group.

Rowan (Lee Marshall) is a shy, awkward girl with a history of self harm. She can barely believe that the wealthy, popular Emily (Lauren Beatty) has invited her along on a trip to her family cabin in the woods. Neither can Emily's boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros), who doesn't want to hurt Rowan's feelings but had clearly hoped for a quiet weekend away with the girl he loves. There's a hint of trouble in their relationship, which makes Rowan feel even more strongly that she's in the way, but Emily is keen to reassure her. They enjoy eating meals together and talking over drinks in the evening, even if the inexperienced Rowan puts away a little more than is good for her.

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The tension builds slowly in Amelia Moses' beautifully observed drama. Rowan, who expected her hangover to fade within a few hours, feels even worse on the following morning. Over the course of a few days at the cabin she grows weaker. She also finds herself with inexplicable injuries and bloodstained clothes. Brendan begins to express concern. Emily says that the best thing is for her to rest, affecting an almost maternal demeanour and making her nourishing drinks. As the couple begin to seem more and more ill at ease with each other, Rowan start to have strange dreams. She becomes increasingly convinced that Emily is stealing her blood.

Suffused with that particular sense of isolation and dependency that can only exist in youth, when the wider world and what it has to offer remain unknown, Bleed With Me is less interested in supernatural myth-building (if, indeed, there's anything supernatural going on here at all) than in exploring the nature of teenage female friendships. As Emily binds herself more closely to Rowan, it doesn't take long for Brendan to become the outsider. There's something between the two girls that he can't touch. Whilst a less skilled filmmaker might have added a sexual connotation to this, Moses opts for something simpler and yet more intangible. Yet the power of this bond is complicated by ongoing uncertainty: does Emily really view Rowan as a friend, or as prey?

Powered by fine performances from Marshall and Beatty (Tyros has less to do but acquits himself well), the film is strong on atmosphere and gains an additional layer of mystery from a subplot which emerges halfway through. Moses understands her subject well and will definitely be one to keep an eye on in future years.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2020
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During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.

Director: Amelia Moses

Writer: Amelia Moses

Starring: Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros, Lee Marshall

Year: 2021

Runtime: 79 minutes

Country: Canada

Festivals:

Fantasia 2020

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