*1/2 out of ****
Philip Gelatt's "The Bleeding House" has aspirations to be creepy, thrilling, violent, and philosophical all at the same time. The director - who also served as screenwriter - seems to have Michael Hanake's "Funny Games" in mind when it comes to the concept he's dealing with; he wants to display brutalized and violent horror, but with a clear message that could either come off as meaningful or down-right hypocritical. Let's just say that if you didn't like Hanake's film - which obviously served as inspiration for Gelatt's - then you might actually find yourself enjoying "The Bleeding House". You'll end up in the exact opposite situation, however, if you reverse those two so that it turns out that you actually liked "Funny Games". Either way, I think it's pretty obvious which film you should appreciate more over the other.
In short, "The Bleeding House" just doesn't work. A few things here-and-there are decent, sure, but in a whole it's just not all that impressive. I've seen plenty of independent horror movies - some better and others worse than this. Still, I don't think that should act as an excuse for Gelatt's straightforward failure as both a director and a storyteller. He lacks a style - which is typical of first-time filmmakers in the independent field, but nonetheless unacceptable - and he also lacks a purpose. The movie he's made is essential a remake of all the films that influenced it; there's not much more to say as far as its main ideas go, and in a sense, I think the film is aware of this; because it's almost like Gelatt didn't make any attempts whatsoever to say something relatively new.
So we've got this traumatized family - father, mother, daughter (Alexandra Chando), and son - supposedly divided by a tragedy not too far in the past. The incident that left each of their individual lives and their accumulated family in pieces is illustrated early-on only through images of a burning house and talk of murder. Slowly, the film takes us through an afternoon into a night with this troubled family; with a dinner scene that seems to beg for our admiration in terms of its "atmosphere" and "unnerving" nature.
After dinner has been served, eaten, and ruined; the night is finally upon us, but things are about to get even less ordinary. As the son is exiting the home; he sees a peculiar and well-dressed man walking up to the house. This same man greets the father and eventually the mother, introduces himself as Nick (Patrick Breen) and is allowed entrance to the household. He will stay there for the night.
However, he seems to know that the family harbors some deep, dark secrets; and he's about to make their night, to state it as vaguely as possible. If you desire a description of the night to come that is, say, a little more...blunt; then perhaps I should mention the part where Nick starts knocking out the family members one-by-one and hooking them up to blood-absorbing machines that he had hidden inside the little briefcase that he carries in and out of the house.
That's as far as I'll go with the story. If you're interested, you won't want me to spoil the big secrets and revelations that come with the film; some of them may act as mild pleasures. You might even like this film; I know plenty of critics who were - much like me - very critical of the movie, while a few swam against the tides and pronounced their admiration for the feature. I've said it once before, perhaps in a different review for a different film, but I'll say it again; I support independent filmmaking all-the-way, and while I dislike "The Bleeding House" immensely due to the fact that I was simply unable to forgive it of its often massively distracting flaws, I would never tell anyone NOT to see it. Yeah, I don't recommend it in the slightest, but if you want to see it; then see it. Who knows? Your reaction might differ significantly from mine.
I like it when a filmmaker wants to go places where few filmmakers would dare explore for even a minute; but there's successful execution of a good idea, and then there's pretension. "The Bleeding House" really doesn't have a whole lot going for it; it's a slow, unrewarding experience with the aspirations of an art film. I don't think it ends up being one, though. It's just too typical; while it wants ever-so-much to be atypical. There are some high points - including some ominous shots of the house at night and the performance from Breen, which itself has its ups and downs - but they aren't enough to cover up the fact that "The Bleeding House" is a bloodbath undertaking the qualities of what could have been a thought-provoking and interesting horror-thriller. But Gelatt does no more - and no less - than bleed his admittedly ambitious idea completely dry; until it's reduced to a (very) cool poster and a few menacing visual tricks.