By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty and Aris Tyros
Written and directed by Amelia Moses
The cabin-in-the-woods trope for horror films is one of the more classic mainstays of our beloved genre. Not only does it remove the characters from social and career obligations, but it positions them in a place with seemingly endless dark possibilities. In BLEED WITH ME, a world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival, we see a young trio in a cabin in the woods, but the cause for fear hides itself well.
Rowan (Lee Marshall) joins couple Emily and Brendan (Lauren Beatty and Aris Tyros) at Emily’s parents’ cabin for a long weekend away from the daily grind of the city. Rowan and Emily are coworkers and we get the impression that this trip is their opportunity to cement their friendship outside of the office. Though Rowan is the office support staff, and that power dynamic never seems lost on her, there is enough mutual, platonic affection to see where their friendship can go.
Visually, these two women are presented with as much contrast as the film can muster between two white women of approximately the same age. Emily is blonde with a sharply cut bob, and wears stylish and intentional pastels. Rowan has dark, soft hair and wears earth tones and fuzzy knits. These women may go in to the same office each morning, but we are being told in no uncertain circumstances that they are not living in the same world.
This inclination to show, rather than tell, us what to think about the characters and situations in BLEED WITH ME continues throughout the film. Like any good cabin-in-the-woods movie, things get dicey and it is asked that we observe and interpret the circumstances on our own.
“Has she regressed, or is something out to get her?
Both Rowan and Emily have different presentations of their issues. Over board games and late night cocktails we learn that Rowan’s traumatic past is her fiercely guarded secret. As she takes ill over the weekend, the lines between the past and the present begin to blur as marks appear on her arms without warning. Has she regressed, or is something out to get her? The cabin losing power one night certainly does not help with her panic and dread. We learn through Brendan that Emily has a history of family trauma as well, but she buries that so deeply only he is willing to talk about it.
BLEED WITH ME is quite slow-moving, and spends a bit too long in the cycle of questioning whether or not Rowan’s cycle of injury and illness are in her head or are caused by something more nefarious. After the film finally crashes into its final act, it’s easy to wish that more time and thought was alloted to these gestures.
Both Marshall and Beatty are tasked with carrying out the weight of the entire film, and do so with grace and subtlety. There are moments when Beatty’s Emily tips into overtly questionable behaviour, but this move is meant to confuse both us and Rowan and it works. The bond between these women, as well as the longing for that bond, is all too relatable and palatable.
BLEED WITH ME is not flashy or gory and monstrous. However, it does stand as an example of what can happen in a cabin in the woods that would shake you to your core.