Watching Bleed, you may find yourself asking the question, why would grown-up people voluntarily spend the night in the abandoned, burnt-out ruins of a supposedly haunted prison?
Because they’re characters in a horror film, that’s why. That’s what they do.
Don’t explore an abandoned prison late at night.
Tripp Rhame’s debut feature harkens back to vintage horror film tropes with its tale of a six friends who find themselves embroiled in demonic doings and dealing menacing backwoods types. Reflecting influences ranging from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Rosemary’s Baby to — well, you name it — Bleed doesn’t exactly break any new ground, stylistically or otherwise.
The film’s central characters are Matt (Michael Steger) and his pregnant wife Sarah (Chelsey Crisp), who have just moved to a new home located in the middle of nowhere, Hicksville, USA; Sarah’s old friend Bree (Brittany Ishibashi) and her boyfriend Dave (Elimu Nelson); and Sarah’s estranged, ghost-hunting brother Eric (Riley Smith) and his hippie girlfriend, named, wait for it…Skye (Lyndon Smith).
Personality clashes predictably ensue, particularly between the straight-laced Matt and the non-conformist Eric, who regales the group with an anecdote about how he and his sister grew up in a haunted house and were saved from its ghosts by a swarm of butterflies.
Upping the shock ante are the periodic jump-scare appearances of a nasty-looking, bearded figure who may be the ghost of a notorious serial killer named “Cannibal Kane” who died in the prison fire. Eventually most of the gang winds up at the prison for some nocturnal ghost hunting, with not especially scary results. Part of the problem is the less-than-convincing performances: when one character, surveying the spooky premises, blandly asks, “What spirits are trapped in here?” he might as well be saying, “Do you want fries with that?”
The plot, which also involves sinister goings-on by the menacing rube locals, eventually becomes too convoluted for its own good, as if director Rhame and screenwriter Ben Jacoby were applying a “horror film greatest hits” approach. But the film does boast visual flair, and its real-life Georgia locations, including an actual former prison, add impressively ominous atmosphere. And with its brief, fast-paced running time, it’s smart enough not to wear out its welcome.
Production: Spitfire Studios
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Riley Smith, Chelsey Crisp, Michael Steger, Lyndon Smith, Brittany Ishibashi, Elimu Nelson
Director/editor: Tripp Rhame
Screenwriter: Ben Jacoby
Producer: Beth Marshall
Executive producers: Tom Hamilton, Tripp Rhame
Director of photography: Mark Carroll
Composer: Jerome Dillon
Casting: Elisha Gruer, Michelle Levy
Not rated, 80 min.