NIGHTSTREAM REVIEW: Isolation and Paranoia Unravel Reality in ‘Bleed With Me’ (2020)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Tightly wound and exceedingly anxious, this film cements Amelia Moses as a talent to watch.”

Theoretically, cabins are comforting. A home away from home, they offer a quiet respite, far from the stresses of everyday life—yet this promise of seclusion is what makes them such a staple of the horror genre. In the right hands, charming solitude becomes uneasy isolation and comfort is set aside as the cabins become overwhelmingly claustrophobic. With her feature film debut, writer/director Amelia Moses delivers a psychologically complex film very much aware of its place in the horror cabin trend. Both embracing and subverting the promise of its setting, Bleed With Me (2020) offers an unsettling atmosphere that expands far beyond the confines of a screen.

Vulnerable and insecure, Rowan (Lee Marshall) is thrilled when the seemingly perfect Emily (Lauren Beatty) invites her to a wintery getaway at her family cabin. However, her delight is short-lived as tensions brim between her and Emily’s boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros). Realizing she is unwanted and beginning to feel like a third wheel, anxiety and insecurity claw at Rowan’s mind and, before long, permeate the film’s atmosphere. Though the cabin is cozy and the fireplace promises warmth, neither Rowan nor the audience are at peace: the distinct feeling that something is off haunts the air. As Rowan and Brendan begin to forge a friendship, it becomes apparent that being a third wheel is the least of her problems. Over a matter of days, Rowan’s admiration of Emily slowly sours and trust becomes paranoia as the truth behind this trip comes into focus. 

Distressed, Rowan stares into a mirror.
Image Courtesy of Telefilm Canada

Tightly wound and exceedingly anxious, Bleed With Me allows tension to bubble beneath the surface for the film’s duration. Experiencing the getaway from Rowan’s perspective means living in the dark alongside her, where fear and paranoia only seem to grow. Despite the distrust, the crux of the film is the relationship between its lead women. On the road to the cabin, Emily leans into her boyfriend’s side and the pair exchange wordless glances indicative of a loving relationship. Even so, these moments are hardly comparable to the charged interactions between Emily and Rowan. Both harboring their own trauma and struggling to cope with their vulnerability, the women forge a relationship that they themselves never quite manage to articulate. Visually, the film speaks volumes about their attachment to one another, offering insight into the complexities of female intimacy layered with codependency. The question of who is in danger hangs in the air, leaving the viewer in an endless search for the line between reality and the supernatural. 

Though the three actors develop a comfortable rapport and nail moments of anxious drama, the characters themselves remain largely enigmatic. They are mysterious not just in motivation but in their general characterization: Rowan may be vulnerable and awkward whilst Emily is composed and covertly hurting, but beyond these traits, they are impenetrable. As relationship drama stirs amongst the three and even as we begin to unravel major details in their lives, viewers never quite uncover who they were before this weekend. Visualizing the long term relationship behind Emily and Brendan feels impossible, as does picturing Rowan before forming this connection. In a way, it only serves to contribute to the film’s atmosphere: as though the characters themselves exist only in the context of this getaway. As frustrating as it can feel to be trapped in a cabin with three people who aren’t quite tangible, perhaps they are just another of the film’s mysteries.

As a director, Moses hits a stride in this film, cementing herself as a talent to be watched. She constructs a thoroughly unnerving reality, rife with layered tension. Though the film unravels slowly, it is gripping all the way through. The push and pull of trust and paranoia do a number on Rowan and leave the audience second guessing her psychological state at every turn. An arresting exploration of female intimacy and an intriguing portrait of manipulation, Bleed With Me cements itself as an essential addition to the “scary cabin” genre.

Dir: Amelia Moses

Prod: Mariel Sharp, Lee Marshall

Cast: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros

Header image courtesy of Telefilm Canada