SALEM HORROR FEST 2020
Horror cinema often reflects our own traumas, fears, and worldly experiences. Rape revenge stories, deformed monsters, and the fear of the other are a few of the multitude of subjects utilized in translating what we feel and experience as a species. To be afraid is to be human, and to be faulty is to be human. One of the more interesting ways filmmakers have tackled what it means to be a human being has been what I like to call genre subversion. The “is this really happening” sub-genre encased in the shell of a classic well-known creature inhabiting our modern world. One of those sub-genres being the vampire film—George Romero’s Martin and Larry Fessenden’s Habit being two of my personal favorites. In Martin a man is locked away and condemned by his family for being a vampire. We see him kill and drink blood; we even see him in black and white memories from his youth hundreds of years ago, but is he just a killer with psychotic fantasies or an ancient creature seeking his next meal? In Habit we follow Sam, a man struggling with the death of his father and alcoholic tendencies, who is introduced to a girl named Anna. Is she a vampire feeding on him, or is this all a symptom of his alcoholism? Fitting right into this sub-genre is Bleed With Me.
In Amelia Moses’ Bleed With Me, we are introduced to three friends Rowan (Lee Marshall), Emily (Lauren Beatty), and Brendan (Aris Tyros), on vacation at a snowy mountain cabin. Brendan and Emily are a couple, so Rowan obviously struggles to fit into their plans, which she assumes were not meant for her in the first place. It sucks being the third wheel. Not only does she feel like a burden on this trip, but she starts to think she may become a victim. Scars appear on her arms when she wakes up in the morning, and she has continual nightmares of Emily drugging her and drinking her blood as she sleeps. Is Emily a vampire stealing her blood in the night? Was she brought here to be consumed by her friend? Or is it all in her imagination?
Bleed With Me, the feature film debut of writer/director Amelia Moses, is a journey through the psychology of friendship, relationships, the human need for connection, and how far one may go to gain that link. Rowan, even with her quirks, is very easy to sympathize with, and we grow to root for her like we’re watching a paranoid Snow White. Emily shows us the struggle of someone who seemingly has everything but wants more and will never be satisfied or is actually struggling to find her place in life and love. Brendan plays the boyfriend where at one moment, he’s an asshole, and in the next, some of his choices seem verified by Emily’s actions. As Emily says in the film, “Sometimes we do crazy things to find our friends.”
I’m hesitant to say more out of fear of spoiling the story. It is a surprising film that I would best compare to last year’s The Lodge by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz. Not only has this film been doing the festival rounds, but Amelia’s sophomore feature Bloodthirsty seems to be doing just as well on the festival circuit. Talk about a good year. I haven’t had the chance to see it yet, but it seems like she’s similarly utilizing the werewolf genre from what I’ve heard. I’m a stickler for genre subversion, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.