Directed by: Christopher Hutson
Release Date: 2009
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.
The 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).
Now, 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.
At 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.
He 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…
Oldham 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…
When 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.
The 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.
Kirra 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.
You 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Directed by: Christopher Hutson