The decent horror melodrama “Bleed” finds some yuppies, newly moved to the countryside, experiencing spooky signs that lead them to a long-burnt-down prison and its unpleasant secrets. Though Tripp Rhame’s Georgia-shot debut feature goes over the top in the last lap and sports plenty of logic gaps, there are enough “boo!” scares and atmosphere here to satisfy the average genre fan. The film opened on limited U.S. screens Friday, but will primarily access its audience via home-format sales.
After a 1979 prologue suggesting dire doings in a nearly abandoned small town — and a dire fate for one red-haired little girl — the present-tense story finds the heavily pregnant Sarah (Chelsey Crisp) and her doctor hubby, Matt (Michael Steger), just settled into a spacious old rural house they’re renovating. They welcome the arrival of her longtime friend Bree (Brittany Ishibashi) and her charming new beau, Dave (Elimu Nelson), for a weekend visit. Less welcome, or expected, is the simultaneous arrival of Sarah’s freeloading man-child of a twin brother, Eric (Riley Smith), and his own latest squeeze, Skye (Lyndon Smith).
Those last two are self-appointed “ghost hunters” who get off on chasing paranormal vibes, and are thus excited to hear that a notorious local serial killer perished (along with many others) in a nearby prison fire some decades ago. They insist on a group expedition to the site, despite the skepticism of some parties and the skittishness of others; during the discussion, Eric blurts out that he and Sarah had supernatural experiences as children, news she wasn’t eager to share with Matt. (We’ve already learned that both Sarah and Bree have “issues with ‘seeing things,’” whatever that means.)
Needless to say, this field trip turns out to be a terrible mistake. “Bleed” ultimately becomes a jumble of too many borrowed ideas and hectic but unsatisfying climactic action, tossing in not just that dead alleged killer’s ghost, but also Satanic worship, corrupt cops, conspiring locals, more flashbacks and whatnot. The screenplay would’ve been better off more fully developing a streamlined narrative agenda than throwing in all but the bloody kitchen sink, with character and overall logic suffering as a result.
But then, you don’t go to movies like this for the Swiss-watch-like engineering of their plot mechanics. Before it reels out of control in the last lap, “Breed” boasts tight pacing, pro performances, a creepy setting (the second half is primarily set at that prison ruin) and a few fair jump scares. Too derivative and not stylish enough to merit any special championing, as indie B-horror movies go, it’s nonetheless nicely crafted enough to rate a cut above the low-expectation median. Tech/design contributions are sharp on a budget.