A blood-and-thunder melodrama bordering on horror, albeit played in a curiously low key, Philip Gelatt’s “The Bleeding House” recalls recent home-invasion thrillers as well as the quasi-religious mania portrayed in “The Night of the Hunter.” First feature for writer-director Philip Gelatt is not especially scary, and at the end one might well wonder what the point is, but the oddity of its story is nonetheless compelling. Pic which recently opened on one screen in Los Angeles, is slated for DVD release in August, where it will find widest exposure.
The Smiths live in an isolated farmhouse that’s not nearly isolated enough by the standards of a community that has shunned them for some past misdeed we don’t learn about for some time. Lawyer father Matt (Richard Bekins) has long been out of work; mother Marilyn (Betsy Aidem) seems on the verge of cracking from their various ill fortunes. Young-adult son Quentin (Charlie Hewson) is the normal one of the bunch, and even has a girlfriend, Lynne (Nina Lisandrello). But Gloria (Alexandra Chando), who prefers to be called “Blackbird,” is a supposedly home-schooled teen with a morbid interest in birds and insects who seems to be kept home more for the public’s safety than for her own. Both she and the kitchen knives are locked up at night.
During one typically tense dinner they get a rare visitor: Nick (Patrick Breen), whose oddly courtly verbiage and accent are straight outta Tennessee Williams, arrives in an ice-cream suit claiming a mechanic won’t reach his stalled car down the road until morning. He talks his way into shelter from the reluctant couple, confiding he’s a surgeon (“I cut people up”), and calling himself a traveling Samaritan.
Not too much later, he knocks out both his hosts and ties them up. The offspring and Lynne have variable success escaping into the woods. Turns out Nick is on a mission of divine retribution, evidently not his first. When he comes after Gloria, however, the two prove equally matched in homicidal mania.
Not especially frightening or convincing — particularly the outstandingly dumb behavior of some cops who get involved in the late going — this grotesque story nonetheless holds interest throughout. Breen’s performance will be the major draw for some, while others may find him, and Nick’s whole character conception, too theatrical. Other perfs are capable in a more naturalistic mode.
Tech and design aspects are unflashy but accomplished.