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The revenge narrative is a powerful tale, and people have been making films with that theme for a very long time. There's just something about seeing the wicked smitten that strikes a chord in the human soul. Henrique Couto presents his take with the ultra-low budget Bleeding Through.
Sandy Behre plays Lindsey, a depressed, repressed, painfully shy college girl, who can't get over her parents' death, and refuses to sell their house and move out, even though her brother (Henrique Couto himself) is pushing her in that direction, not to mention that she can't afford the exorbitant mortgage. And that's just one of her problems. Her boss is a jerk. She's failing at school, and her creepy professor's offers to help are perhaps not entirely altruistic. Her boyfriend storms away in a huff when she won't put out. A group of alcoholic hooligans at her school are intent on mocking her any chance they get. Her life sucks.
But then she meets Katie (Ruby LaRocca), a vivacious, outgoing fellow student who initiates a friendship with Lindsey. They do typical girly things, such as play dress up, and less stereotypically girly things, like hang around in graveyards. They have lots of fun, and grow closer. Lindsey clings to this friendship, which seems like the one good thing in her life. She starts to have stronger feelings for Katie. Should she reveal her romantic interest?
If you're any kind of fan of horror and / or revenge films, the answer is obviously "no". Opening oneself up to intimacy and vulnerability is a tricky enough proposition in real life. In horror movies, it's positively asking for trauma. This is true in Bleeding Through as well, with pretty horrific consequences for those who have wronged Lindsey. But this film separates itself from most revenge fare. Most of these movies get the setup over fairly quickly. We understand why dad is out to kill the rapists of his daughter, or why the jaded bodyguard will kill anyone he has to if it gets his young charge back. These films focus on the exacting of bloody revenge. They are all about the smiting. In Bleeding Through, however, the revenge, though it involves numerous people, is over fairly quickly. This film is about the offenses, the umbrage, the miserable life of Lindsey.
Couto lingers on Lindsey weeping, bouncing from one uncomfortable, humiliating encounter to another, intercut with home video style shots of her parents before they died, himself as the brother doing a video blog about how worried he is about her, and most jarringly, the bullies drinking and enjoying themselves, with no concern at all about the damage they are doing to a fragile girl. The awfulness of her life builds and builds and folds in on itself, and then there's this ray of light named Katie. Because we all know that things are worst when our prospects start looking brighter for a moment, and then everything crashes and we lose hope. As an audience, we are very invested in Lindsey's situation. We want it all to work out. We want her to be happy. And we are doomed to disappointment. Watching it all unfold is agonizing.
But it works. Primarily because Sandy Behre is very, very good as the ungainly and terminally awkward young woman. Sincerity simply oozes out of her. And the chemistry between her and Ruby LaRocca is honest and affecting. Couto and his cohorts are able to pull off a well-acted, good looking, and engaging film, on what appears to be very little money. Highly recommended.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. The image is bright, and tends to harshness at times, but the colors are quite vivid. There are segments that are presented as home video, and thus have quality issues that are intentional.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and does the job but isn't spectacular. The dialogue is always audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included.
There are a few extras included. They are:
Behind the Scenes
At almost 24 minutes, this is a lot of behind the scenes video, mostly Couto directing actors, or makeup effects being applied, etc. But there's also an incident involving a cat and a bunny.
World Premiere Featurette
This is an introduction of the film by Couto, and his interviews with patrons after they've seen the film.
Extended "Parents" Scenes
There are a few segments of home video featuring Sandy's parents, mostly taken by her father. There are some alternate takes, and slightly extended versions of those scenes here.
Extended "Bully" Scenes
Similar to the segment above, the home video of the bullies as they party is presented in fuller form.
Alternate "Prank" Takes
These are alternate angles and takes for the final prank reveal near the end of the film.
Ruby LaRocca: Auto Mechanic
LaRocca is apparently quite helpful on set, and is here shown changing the tail light of Couto's car.
Feature Commentary with director Henrique Couto and star Sandy Behre
This is the meatiest extra included, and features Couto and Behre (participating via Skype) discussing the film. It began as a project with just the two of them, and they filmed many of the cheaper to do scenes quite a while before budget was found to complete the movie. This also required Behre to refrain from cutting her hair for a couple of years. These two are longtime friends, and quite engaging, with a lot of on set anecdotes and stories about production. On occasion, the film audio overwhelms the commentary, making it difficult to make out, but this is fleeting and rare.
Bleeding Through is not a film for everyone. It's slow moving at times, there's a long wait for the payoff and most of the film is emotionally excruciating. There are certainly flaws, and odd directorial choices, and limitations that are unavoidable with super low budget films, but it works in the end. The central performances are honest and brutal, and there are interesting and quirky turns throughout. I wouldn't call this a "fun" film, but it is a powerful experience.