CW: Self-harm, blood
The protagonist of Amelia Moses’ Bleed With Me (2020), Rowan, is invited by her friend Emily and her boyfriend Brendon on vacation in a cabin for a winter weekend. As Rowan awakes, she finds marks on her arms that look like self-harm wounds that appeared while she was in her slumber. She sleepwalks and sees visions of Emily drinking her blood, an act that seems even more real by the fact that she only gets sicker and paler each morning she wakes up.
What is interesting about Moses’ film is how homey it feels, setting-wise. Some of its strengths come from how rich and full the setting feels. Making the interiors of the cabin feel warm and cozy is a perfect contrast to the eventual bleakness and the blood that covers the floors. Its cinematography, lighting, and sound design only add to this feeling. One of the greatest shots in the film features the lead character, Rowan, laying in bed as the moonlight presents a soft glow on her, presenting a brief but beautiful glow onto a character whose mental state has been dark.
When it comes to the sound design, all the viewer can focus on is the sound of the fire crackling and popping, making them feel like they are in this cabin with the characters. And yet, it does its best to make the viewer as uncomfortable as Rowan is. During a scene where everyone is eating dinner together, the film subtly makes the sound of scraping forks on Emily and Brendon’s teeth the loudest. These little touches help make the film’s atmosphere a perfect balance between serene and harsh.
Rowan is a nervous wreck. She sits in the back of the car, the obvious third wheel to the couple for a vacation that Brendon thought was just going to be him and Emily. She hides underneath her bangs and her beanie, nervous to say anything to either person in the couple. Anytime she is not in the same room as them, all she hears is conversations between them about her, making her feel even more like a burden on this trip. Could this just be her own anxiety making up certain scenarios or is this how her friends really feel about her?
How Rowan acts around Emily and the way scenes are blocked show Rowan’s attraction for her friend. with Rowan’s head on her shoulder, and Emily looking into the camera as they eat dinner, her motions are slowed down, showing how Rowan views Emily as both caring and seductive. Actress Lee Marshall is perfect at showing the sadness and the anxiety that goes through Rowan’s head.
Lauren Beatty plays Emily like a nurturing mother. Her exterior is that of comfort, trying to give Rowan the illusion of safety while she continues to drink her blood every night. It reminds the viewer of the role of the vampire in cinema. Vampires in fiction have been used as metaphors for addiction, the rich taking away from the poor, but here, Emily’s vampirism acts as sucking the life out of her friend through her toxicity. She’s stuck in a relationship with Brendon that seems to becoming more and more loveless as time goes on, and she needs an outlet to vent all of her problems to, but she hurts Emily, manipulates her, and often does not take her seriously. She switches between asking her what she wants and forcing Rowan to talk about her past with a stalker. Emily also takes full advantage of Rowan’s insecurities and past with self-harm, tricking her into thinking she injured herself while in her sleep, making Emily both a master of manipulation and a terrifying villain.
Bleed with Me is a film that showcases Amelia Moses as a promising new talent. It’s a movie that fully understands the boundaries that should be set up between friends, and manages to simultaneously present a warm and cold atmosphere. Be on the look out for this film and whatever project Moses does next.