Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bled – review

DVDDirected by: Christopher Hutson

Release Date: 2009

Contains spoilers

When I first heard of Bled I was extremely taken by the trailer. It seemed a stylish piece of work, and no mistake. Of course trailers are designed to mislead you, they are a sales piece, but based on what I saw I was excited.

My anticipation cooled somewhat when I read a comment (left by an anonymous poster) who had watched the movie and said “the story was just repetitive and there was no suspense, the ending did not make sense?” Not a good report at all but, dutifully, I sat down with the DVD and watched the film intent, as always, in making up my own mind.

Ivan L Moody plays IncubusThe film – like many in the vampire genre – uses key genre names within its story but has a rather unusual premise. It begins with a voice over as preparations are made by a certain Renfield Lieb (Jonathon Oldham). He says that immortality comes not without sacrifice and that the fountain of youth is based upon the blood of the young. We see an alternate dimension, perhaps, he refers to it as a dream and in that dream is a creature waiting to cross over and offer Renfield new life. Within the dream is a girl hunted by the creature referred to in credit as incubus (Ivan L Moody).

Incubus shape-shiftedNow, an incubus was, of course, a sexual demon (the male equivalent of the succubus). Whilst there is a sexual side to this creature its primary motivation is for blood – the fact that it uses seduction (it can shape shift) and sex as a primary lure to gain blood is not without the standard vampire genre. The relationship between our world and its tree dominated dream world is the interesting aspect to this films lore.

Renfield and SaiAt an art Gallery the work of Sai (Sarah Farooqui, and I should mention that I am not sure if the character being referred to at one point as Sarah was a mistake or whether Sai is meant to be short for Sarah somehow) is on display. Also at the opening are the three people who share her warehouse apartment with her. Royce (Chris Ivan Cevic) is a photographer and he and Sai, it becomes clear, have a near miss and thus unrequited relationship. Also there is Eric (Alex Petrovitch), bad boy and general leech, and Kerra (Michele Morrow), whose entire presence can be broken down to the fact that she is a story cipher. Sai is introduced to Renfield who offers to buy a piece and goes off with her.

suck it upHe wants to expand her mind, he says, and has a drug with which to do just that. It was used by many of the great artists and is the sap of a tree know as stigoï. Now, the pronunciation seemed off but I suspect that the name as written here is what they aimed for. The sap is melted on a spoon and the vapour breathed in, he says, opening the doors of perception (as Huxley might have said). One goes in and one stays out, he explains, thus he will not do the drug and I want to break here and look at one of the problems with the film… the acting…

stigoï in twig formOldham is stagy but works as Renfield – his character is meant to be like that (another character calls him Shakespeare at one point). The other acting not so good and I just didn’t buy Farooqui as Sai. Perhaps, however, the fault did not lie with her but with script and direction. You can image it… So, Sarah, you play Sai an artist and she takes this drug she has never heard of, offered by a man she has met that night… What’s my motivation… he likes your work and gets it… okay, is that enough, am I a habitual drug user… don’t know, the script doesn’t say... These characters are not developed and have no motivation, no wonder the actors struggled… Back to the film…

grey faced and trippingWhen she takes the drug her face goes grey and she seems to choke. Renfield leaves the apartment, not watching over her. She finds herself in a strange place, wearing a red dress (those passing over wear red, the vampire (s) wear white). Incubus takes the form of Royce, though it is a Royce with black eyes and pointed teeth. They come together and he bites. The rising sun (in our world) seems to pierce the dream and she awakens.

a bride reminiscent sceneThe next day she paints a new, darker, picture. Royce comes in as do the bickering Eric and Kirra. Sai tells them about the drug, after Eric finds the twig, and they are doubtful but Eric decides to give it a go. He ends up in the dream place and is approached by three vampiric women – reminiscent of the brides from Dracula, of course – in the real world he is becoming physically violent to Kirra. He is snapped out of the dream but, when it happens, he breaks a branch in the dream world and the sap filled branch materialises in his hand in the real world (unseen by the others). Now, that would have given me pause to thought but obviously not Eric who is content to have a shed load of this drug in his hand.

Incubus feedsKirra comes to his room later, looking for money he owes her. He comes on to her and then suggests she tries the drug. Now, here we hit that lack of character and motivation again. She has seen him take it, his face going grey as he appeared to choke, and then experienced him getting violent towards her whilst tripping. She clearly is unsure about the drug generally and yet she takes it and… bad trips. She is hunted by Incubus in Eric form and attacked. Royce hears her screams and breaks her out of it but she continues to flash back as the door has been opened.

becoming a vampire in realityYou see the door is two way and Sai is becoming addicted to the drug and, as such, turning into a vampire herself. Meaning that in our world she starts developing pointy teeth, grey skin with black veins and a taste for blood. She actually attacks Kirra, who spends the rest of her performance in her room, injured and on her back with blood at her mouth that never seems to dry… for shame – filmmakers note that blood does dry over time.

Renfield has agedThe entire set up seems to be about Royce, Sai is the lure. She becomes pulled more and more into the vampiric world and lures him to follow her allowing Incubus to trade places and come into our world. Renfield will then mug Incubus for a syringe full of his blood, which he uses to stay young (at the film climax he is aging and one suspects he has been doing this for a while). Of course the fact that Sai has involved Eric is a fly in the ointment, though how much so isn’t really explored as Eric vanished off for the centre portion of the film. As for the ending, I don't want to spoil it but it didn't make too much sense all told, at least when it reached the epilogue section.

Sai sniffs RoyceThe lore, therefore, was really unusual and there was a stylisation to the film that I really enjoyed. The lack of locations (and they were limited) was completely disguised by the use of the dream realm, which looked mighty nice. However, the story was slight, even if the lore was very unusual, the characters wafer thin and most of the acting perfunctory at best and poor at worst. Lack of character made the film lose any sense of suspense and, quite frankly, I didn't really care what happened to the characters. Also, the bottom line was this was a vampire film about drug abuse and it has been done before, in other ways but so much better. I watched and I couldn’t help but compare and contrast to Habit and, even more so, I Pass for Human.

All in all I was left with a feeling of a film that had style but nothing of substance and it was substance it desperately needed. 4 out of 10 reflects the truckload of style and unusual lore.

The imdb page is here.


Everlost said...

Disappointing...that trailer looked so good!

Frog God said...

vampire comic books
Chastity (chaos comics)

monster squad


vampire cartoons
count duckula
animated Buffy series


The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Hey Taliesin,

When I first watched this film I was blown away with it's imagery and was quite fond of it, but as time past I seemed to realise that it too was all style and mostly no substance with gaping parts of the story left untold, perhaps for the viewer to figure out on their own.

I proclaimed that this was better the Vampire Journals but now I think about it I do take it back - the characters in VJ are actually engaging and sympathetic (as was the story and use of location), even for the antagonist Ash who is almost as tragic as Zachery.

I think this was a good first effort though for the film makers, and since some of the protagonists survived I suggest that they do sequel with Royce attempting to hunt down Renfield and Eric and in turn explain to the audience through his (re)search the unanswered questions of Renfield, the Incubus, the dimension and the sap.

Part of the reason I liked it was in a world of vampire detectives/hunters and boxum slayers this was a breath of fresh air, someone who was willing to depart from the Buffy/Forever Knight/Moonlight/Blood Ties/True Blood world of chick-lit vampire fiction. The writer was influenced by Barker's Hellraiser and you could see its influence oh-so-slightly in this film, so I have to give the writer the kudos for that.

Yes - the acting could have been better, but I think with most things you get what you pay for and I don't know if the budget would have been extensive, and if it was most was used on the special effects.

I did like the look of the vampires and the use of abilities that Sai had, but it didn't explain where those other vampire women (brides) came from? Where they trapped in the dimension from Renfield's last sojourn of immortality and crossed over as Sai was about to take their place? And if they were older how was she able to defeat them?

Furthermore do you think Renfield was the character from Dracula (though in the novel doesn't D kill him for betraying him) or some kind of twisted alias? He does appear to be English as Renfield was.

Overall it did seemed rushed and I believe it either needed extra running times to flesh out the characters and expand on the story or a sequel to be made to answer these questions.

I give it 6/10

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Everlost, I agree

Frog God... oookay

Gabriel, fair points...

re the vampire women I assumed they were ones drawn over like Sai. I didn't mention some of Sai's power - whilst unusual - as it was a little too spoilerful but... her ability to destroy them psychically was not explained, nor was their presence, but it didn't make much sense if they were the same as her.

I think the name Renfield was just the use of the name. Yes Renfield is killed by Dracula (when Renfield manages to grab his mist form and tries to prevent him reaching Mina) and, for some reason, despite the English accent the film states that Renfield is from Germany and gives his name as Renfield Lieb - whereas the Dracula Renfield was R.M. Renfield.

I appreciate your thoughts on this but I still think it was desperately lacking any substance. A brave film but one that is lacking ultimately. Cheers for the in depth comment.

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Dirge Of Gabriel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Hey Sexy

Wakarimasen...Nihongo wo hanasemasen and I'm sure that goes the same for Taliesin too...though I can tell from your underlined links that it's just porn spam so good on you...i'm sure you'll be deleted any minute now...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel was completely correct - the comment was spam and has been deleted.

I work on a trust/tolerence level and, if I get quite a bit of spam comments I end up putting comment moderation on - to protect the real readers of the blog.

It is a pain for real commentators, and it is a pain for me. So kudos to you, Sexy, you have brought the blog one step closer to having moderation switched back on, for the sake of links that no one will have clicked and that have been deleted. Your momma must be real proud of you.

Uranium Willy said...

I think I would like to see this actually from your review. I would not expect too much but it seems like a good late night week end flick while vegging on the sofa.

I have checked to see if you have reviewed Twilight which I recently saw. I could not find it in the A to Z archive but you may not have put it there yet. I would be curious about your take and any trivia you may have on that film.

I actually enjoyed it.


Taliesin_ttlg said...


Twilight coming up soon - but you can see my first impressions under the menu heading Taliesin's Ruminations