I have a theory that cabin-in-the-woods horror films are sponsored by, for example, the Caravan Club of America, bent on destroying its closest rival in the lucrative US vacation market. Why else would that specific location prove such a fertile cinematic setting for groups of young people to be violated by trees (The Evil Dead), drink poisoned water and fart their guts out (Cabin Fever), be stalked by horror nasties (Cabin In The Woods) or endure a home invasion (The Strangers)? I mean, there’s never been a movie called Caravan Fever, has there?
A new addition to the canon, Shudder Original Bleed With Me begins with the obligatory road trip to the frozen north then quickly settles into your average holiday-from-hell for meek singleton Rowan, who has for some reason taken an offer to play third wheel at the winter getaway of a colleague, Emily, who seems neither to like, nor be liked by, Rowan.
Emily’s partner Brendan doesn’t really want Rowan there at all – so much so he can’t even be bothered to ask who she is for the duration of the drive into the wilderness. “So… how do you guys know each other again?” he enquires, at the cabin, in a prime example of writer-director Amelia Moses’ knack for expository dialogue that sticks out like a very sore thumb. And speaking of sore thumbs, there is a literal one, too, when Rowan pricks hers and Emily sucks the blood out like an absolute weirdo.
While odd behaviour is in abundance on this trip, fun – and conversation – is in short supply. Brendan’s intellectual level is summed up by his ‘stoner bants’ conversation-starter: “Hey, if you had to sell something on an Infomercial, what would it be?” Avoid this man at parties, people. Rowan presents as a bit of a victim – lacking confidence, lank haired, wound too tightly for her own good – so mostly she’s just happy to be there. But soon even she is starting to ponder the question the rest of us are: why are these three personality vacuums on holiday together in some godforsaken tundra?
The clue, of course, is in the name, for it follows that any horror movie with “blood” in the title must at least loosely consider itself to be a fresh take on the vampire myth. Rowan has dreams of Emily’s bloodlust and wakes with mysterious cuts. So Bleed With Me’s fresh take is a bit like the concept of the 2015 knockabout comedy movie The Duff, except instead of being the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’, Rowan is the ‘Delicious Unsuspecting Feroglobin Fountain’. Is Rowan’s host drugging her and drinking down her claret, or is it all in Rowan’s head? That question is meant to sustain the viewer’s interest, but struggles to do so even for the lean 80 minute runtime. That’s mostly due to the acting here – or maybe that should be attempts at acting. Aris Tyros plays Brendan like he’s auditioning for a Tommy Wiseau film. Lauren Beatty plays Emily as a cold fish with zero personality to speak of. The camera does not love these leads.
Given better actors to work with, director Moses could probably deliver a better movie, even if she seems alarming hung up on vampires – Bleed With Me is her second bloodsucker flick in as many years, having debuted with 2020’s Bloodthirsty. For now, If you want to waste time watching monosyllabic near-strangers having a shit time on holiday, probably best stick to Love Island instead.
- Director: Amelia Moses
- Starring: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros
- Release date: August 10 (Shudder)