Directed by Philip Gelatt, The Bleeding House tells the unusual story of the Smith family who live in a remote house out in the middle of nowhere, away from the small town that they used to be a part of. When we meet them - father Matt (Richard Bekins), mother Marilyn (Betsy Aidem), grown son Quentin (Charlie Hewson) and young teenage daughter Gloria (Alexandra Chando) - we quickly figure something is a bit off. There's mention made of a fire started by Marilyn a few years ago that got them ostracized from town and when they sit down for dinner we notice that Marilyn cuts up all their food for them and keeps the knives in a locked drawer. This might have something to do with Gloria's strange character or her penchant for keeping dead bugs pinned to the walls of her bedroom. Quentin wants to leave, and his girlfriend, Beth (Victoria Dalpe), encourages him to get out before whatever dark cloud is hanging over his family ruins his life too.
Things get interesting for the family when a kindly man with a southern accent named Nick (Patrick Breen) shows up at their door late one night, just as Quentin is on his way out. His car has broken down, he tells them, and while he feels awkward even asking he won't be able to get a mechanic out until the morning and as it's going to be below freezing, he'd like to know if they'd put him up. Initially they resist, but Marilyn eventually realizes that word of their good deed might get back to the townsfolk and in turn help remove some of the tarnish from their reputation. Since Matt didn't get that high profile case he was hoping to get, they don't have much else to bet on. They let him in, set him down for dinner, and get to know each other but it's not long before Gloria's strange behavior causes some issues. Nick, however, seems to feel some sort of bond with her, which seems to intensify once he starts letting on what his real reasons for his visit are.
Fairly tense and featuring a good twist (though one that attentive viewers will pick up on earlier than maybe the filmmakers might want them to!), The Bleeding House is a fairly atmospheric and crafty little film. It's gory enough to warrant its R-rating but never to the point where it's gore for the sake of gore, it all fits in the context of the story and ever feels trashy or exploitative. Some great camerawork and some effective locations give the movie enough atmosphere that we feel the same sort of desolation that the Smiths do, their house obviously quite large but falling into disrepair due to their lack of funds. It's a good setting for a horror film, an appropriately dire looking place that was obviously quite fancy at one point though, like those who inhabit it, it has fallen from grace.
The performances are what you're likely going to remember most about this picture, however, Patrick Breen's work in particular. While all involved are very good in their respective parts, Breen definitely seems to be having the most fun with his. Once his true nature comes out and his unusual motivations are made clear, his travelling good Samaritan act takes on a very sinister tone but not one that he doesn't manage to infuse with a fair bit of effective humor and good old fashioned small town American charm. An unlikely antagonist, he nevertheless makes the part his own and essentially carries the film, with honorable mention going to Alexandra Chando whose Gloria is appropriately distant and, yes, even a little bit creepy.
There are a couple of plot wholes here and a couple of logic gaps, but if you appreciate a bit of a slow burn before it all hits the fan and you like character driven horror mixed in with your grue, give this one a chance - you'll like what you find.
The Bleeding House looks okay on this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or nasty edge enhancement but black levels do sometimes get a little bit murky and muddy looking, you'll notice this some of the darker scenes later in the film. A few minor macroblocking issues also pop up early on when we see the burning house. Colors tend to look good and skin tones generally fare well enough even if they tend to be a bit more subdued looking than you might expect it to be. Not an amazing image, but a perfectly acceptable one which generally looks as good as you'd expect it to.
The sole audio track for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, and there are no subtitles or alternate audio options offered. There isn't a ton of rear channel action here though some good channel separation is noticeable in the front of the mix and surrounds do kick in nicely in a couple of the more action intensive scenes - most notable when the cops go into the house or when the two girls are out in the woods. Generally levels are well balanced and dialogue is easy enough to understand. There aren't really any problems here to complain about - it's not an amazing track, but it gets the job done easily enough and it's atmospheric enough to help build some suspense.
There aren't a load of extras here but there is a slightly different (and more appropriate) alternate ending included here along with two interesting deleted scenes that add a bit more character development. Some obnoxious American express branding is all over the menus and appears before the movie starts, and some trailers for a couple of other Tribeca discs play before the menu loads.
The Bleeding House isn't quite perfect but if you're in the mood for something a little different than your typical stalk and slash psycho killer movie, this one will probably work for you. It's well acted, well put together, and a fair bit smarter than your average slasher or home invasion movie. Tribeca's DVD doesn't have much going on in the way of extra features but it looks and sounds good enough that you can consider this one recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.