Saturday, September 10, 2011

True Bled: "Bled" (2009)

Yes, this is how you do it, aspiring film makers with limited means!

Sai (Sarah Farooqui) is a struggling artist. She is approached at a show by Renfield (Jonathan Oldham), who seems to get her mystical self-portraits, and she takes him back to the loft she shares with photographer Royce (Chris Ivan Cevic), Eric (Alex Petrovitch), and Kerra (Michele Morrow). Renfield breaks out a small stick with blood-red sap pustules on it. When the pustules are melted in a spoon and the fumes inhaled, the user is transported into a strange wooded world crawling with vampiric creatures. Sai takes the drug, trips, and tries to deal with the unrequited love between her and Royce. When she awakens, Renfield is gone, and her artwork becomes even darker than before.

Eric and Kerra try the drug, but with different results. Eric grabs a piece of the same pustule-laden tree in the mystical world, brings it back to the real world, and uses the drug on Kerra, who is terrified. After her trip, flashbacks send her cowering in her room, alone. Royce wants nothing to do with any of this, and helplessly watches as his loftmates begin to change. Sai uses the drug more and more, and in an expertly edited climax, we find out why Renfield came into their lives in the first place.

Aside from the early gallery scene, the film only has two settings- the loft and the drug-induced woods. The cast is small. The special effects are mostly camera based, with the exception of a number of makeup opportunities. Do you know what? It all works.

Hutson's direction is direct and learned. No shaky handheld, no technical problems, just a sure hand guiding the screenplay. While Essex's screenplay gives us a couple too many trips to the other dimension, the characters are well-rounded and believable, trapped in an intricate story that serves as a horrific allegory about artistic inspiration and drug abuse (Sai naively compares the substance to absinthe).

The cast is fantastic. They seem devoted to Hutson and Essex's vision and dive right in. The dark cinematography and set design are perfect, as is the makeup and visual effects. The mystical world is creepy, thanks to the imaginative costuming and art direction, and the main monster in the film is hideous, scary, and technically well-done.

"Bled" was unfairly lumped in with all the other second-rate vampire films that have come out in the wake of the "Twilight" series and "True Blood." It's an original, stand-alone effort, and creepy to boot. (* * * *) out of five stars.