For anyone who has experienced sleep paralysis, the sinister sensation of a presence hovering at your bedside is an unparalleled nightmare. In writer/director Amelia Moses’ Bleed with Me, this hellish hallucination is taken to its most uncanny extreme as a wintry cabin vacation among three friends reveals a parasitic relationship—one that involves discreetly siphoning blood by moonlight.
After a period of personal turmoil, Rowan (Lee Marshall) is pleasantly surprised when she’s invited to join coworker-turned-friend Emily (Lauren Beatty) at her family’s remote cabin in the woods for a picturesque snowy getaway. They’re also accompanied by Emily’s boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros), who is less enthused about an apparent third wheel on what was supposed to be an intimate romantic getaway. Though even Rowan herself suspects that her last-minute inclusion is nothing more than a sympathetic gesture, her presence on the excursion suddenly seems to fulfill a more ominous role. In the middle of the night, suspended in a state of groggy semi-consciousness, Rowan’s bleary eyes perceive a dark figure sitting by her bed. In the morning, she wakes to find a small incision on her forearm—so fresh that it still glistens with bright red blood. Night after night, new nicks emerge in neat succession like tally marks, and the figure at her bedside becomes harder to dismiss as none other than her beautiful blonde hostess. With a hinted history of trauma and instability, Rowan’s trust in her own perception remains rocky—particularly when her paranoia becomes palpable to those around her. With no possible way to escape, Rowan must confront whether the evil entity is indeed inside of the cabin or simply a figment of her own imagination.
There exist various similarities between the plot of Bleed with Me and Moses’ previously released 2021 feature Bloodthirsty: Both star Beatty as a blonde monstress who may or may not be satiating a craving for blood, are set in remote snow-covered abodes and involve a two-to-one woman to man dynamic. However, Bleed with Me is technically Moses’ first completed feature despite being released nearly four months after Bloodthirsty. This fact certainly shows, though it is in no way a detriment to the film’s overall effectiveness. The small cast, capsule setting and slow-burning yet scintillating story are efficacious in their sparse simplicity, leaving ample room for carefully crafted ambiance and performances to arrest the viewer with mounting dread and anticipation.
The destructive dynamic between Rowan and Emily is also a helpful blueprint which undoubtedly aided in Moses’ more complex crafting of lesbian lovers Grey (Beatty) and Charlie (Katharine King So) in Bloodthirsty—all while maintaining its own twinge of sapphic desire and obsessive toxicity which speaks to a larger anxiety inherent in female friendship wrought with repressed emotions. Beatty’s performance is particularly entrancing, straddling the line of desirable and demonic that perfectly encapsulates the oft-perplexing object of newfound queer desire. Marshall’s Rowan is also intriguing and well-rounded as a subject, especially when it comes to the secrets buried deep within her psyche. The character of Brendan never quite distinguishes himself as anything more than ancillary—a somewhat frustrating detail that is ostensibly meant to hint at the all-consuming mania of insecure friendships, but doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Equipped with all of the necessary hallmarks of a gripping no-frills horror debut, Bleed with Me heralds Moses as a filmmaker with a fresh perspective on the horrors of womanhood that will surely be espoused in her future work. As a meditative exercise in defining a signature style (intimate interiors, an engrossing musical presence and a navigation of the complexities of Lilith-like figures), it’s clear that this is a salient preamble to a catalogue of horror films rife with observations of what makes women so goddamned scary—even in environments that deplatform the power of a male presence.
Director: Amelia Moses
Writer: Amelia Moses
Stars: Lauren Beatty, Lee Marshall, Aris Tyros
Release Date: August 10, 2021 (Shudder)
Natalia Keogan is a freelance film writer based in Queens, New York. Her work has been featured in Paste Magazine, Blood Knife Magazine and Filmmaker Magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter @nataliakeogan