The Bleeding House
by Glenn Lovell
What if Tennessee Williams’ Gentleman Caller overnighted at the Last House on the Left?
Meet Nick (Patrick Breen), a loquacious Southerner, who, despite the white linen suit and genteel manner, is on a grisly mission to rid the world of liars and cheats, to act as Avenging Angel and “restore order,” or some such nonsense.
Philip Gelatt’s “The Bleeding House,” which had simultaneous premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival and on PPV, will, I’m guessing, be the oddest home-invasion thriller you’ve seen in a while, at least since Michael Haneke’s original “Funny Games.” People die here from bullets, knifes and reverse blood transfusions, but no matter ‒ they’d expire eventually anyway from their guest’s tiresome palaver.
“I am more than a man — I am the nagging conscience of a world that has given itself over to monsters,” he boasts in one of his more preposterous torrents.
To put it mildly, Nick likes to hear himself talk. He has good listeners in the Smith family, which lives in exile on the outskirts of a small Midwestern town. The Smiths, you see, have a dark past, something to do with burning a neighbor’s house down … with said neighbors inside.
Marilyn Smith (Betsy Aidem) is supposed to have struck the match because her attorney husband Matt (Richard Bekins) was fooling around with the neighbor’s wife. Matt the ever-dutiful husband then did his thing in court and got his wife off, and now the Smiths and their two teenage children have all but barricaded themselves in their farmhouse. Daughter Gloria (Alexandra Chando) collects dead things and seems out of it most of the time; Quentin (Charlie Hewson), the boringly sane one, plans to leave with his sexy girlfriend, Lynn (Nina Lisandrello), as soon as he can muster the courage.
Obviously there’s some unfinished business here. Nick, the “traveling Samaritan,” thrives on unfinished business. Which is why he feigns a breakdown and inveigles an invite to sup and overnight with the Smiths.
In a nice touch, at dinner Mom cuts everyone’s meat, even Nick’s. Why? The kitchen cutlery is kept locked away.
“The Bleeding House” has a lot of nice, unsettling touches. It also has a hammy force of nature in Breen, who plays his whack-job physician as if he were auditioning for a road company of “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of monotonous speechifying and two very self-conscious performance by Aidem and Lisandrello, whose Lynn sets a new standard in slasher films for gullibility.
Gelatt has come up with a genuinely spooky situation. But by allowing his characters to run off at the mouth, he undercuts the suspense and betrays his cinema school background. And in the end “The Bleeding House, which boasts a great title and poster (see above), is more an intellectual exercise in absurdist horror (with as many references to Edward Albee as Williams) than a straight-for-the-jugular horror film. Our advice: Philip, trust your darkest instincts next time, and finish us off.
Comments by director Gelatt to this review: “He actually wasn’t written to have any name other than just ‘Nick.’ Just like the Smith family have the most generic last name possible, I was trying to keep things somewhere between the realistic and the absurd … Again thanks for the review. This was my first film as director and writer, and while I know it has its flaws, it’s really great for me to see it get out there and get some attention. Best, Phil” (4.25.11)
“I did have a hand in the poster; Tribeca designed one as well that’s on display on Amazon.com and itunes, but I wanted something a little more befitting the film so I had some friends of mine that run a design company make it for me. I told them my dream poster was something ‘Saul Bass-y.’ … I feel really good about the simultaneous premieres, for a movie the size of my movie it makes a lot of sense. I mean, I’d love everyone to go see movies in the theaters, as I feel it is the pure cinematic experience, but realistically, especially for a movie like mine, this simultaneous model really makes a lot of sense.” (4.25.11)