Friday, August 05, 2011

Tired Blood: The Bleeding House

No good deed of Christian compassion goes unpunished in this horror movie. Showing hospitality to strangers, the Smith family allows a polite southern gentleman into their secluded country home. Unfortunately, he is a fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist, so we know he has to be a psycho killer in Philip Gelatt’s embarrassingly clich├ęd The Bleeding House (trailer here), which is currently staggering across the country, stopping at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus this weekend.

One of the Smiths did something so terrible, the surrounding community has shunned the entire family. Actually, in a world where O.J. and Casey Anthony exist, it hardly seems worth gossiping over, but Bleeding considers it absolutely shocking. So notorious is the crime committed by one of them (we can guess who in about three seconds), the righteous drifter Nick has come to administer God’s wrath. Of course, he commits the very sins he is there to punish, after abusing the family’s trust and compassion. Indeed, this is how Evangelicals act according to Bleeding’s ugly world view.

Frankly, Bleeding initially shows a fair amount of promise. Gelatt creates an effective atmosphere of foreboding, leading viewers to wonder what they did that was so profoundly sinful. Yet, the revelations are so pedestrian viewers will be shaking their heads in disappointment before the film is even half over. All the audience is really left with is a few scenes of bloodletting (literally), and an Elmer Gantry from Hell only the makers of The Ledge could give credence to (a film that coincidentally preceded Bleeding at the Gateway.)

Apparently basing his performance on Tom Wolfe, Patrick Breen projects a legitimately evil charisma as the cream suited Nick. However, his character is deeply problematic, lacking even a consistency of purpose beyond the villainy required by the shallow screenplay. Richard Bekins is not bad either as dumb old dad, but as daughter Gloria, Alexandra Chando’s underwhelming Wednesday Addams routine essentially gives the game away (such as it is).

Irrespective of its unsubtle prejudice, Bleeding simply is not a fun time at the movies. Though it gets somewhat graphic at times, it is more torturous than outright torture porn. Even the elements that click at the beginning are eventually undermined in this darkly nihilistic, blatantly manipulative depiction of psychotic fanaticism. Wholly skippable when it reaches your town, Bleeding screens this weekend (8/5 & 8/6) and the following Tuesday (8/9) and Thursday (8/11) as part of the Nightmares on High Street series at Columbus’ Gateway Film Center.