Bleed With Me Plays With the Psychological Horror of Female Friendships

There’s something unique about female friendships. Women fiercely support their girlfriends and lift them up when they need it the most. On the other hand, when a woman feels slighted by another woman, she can often strike with the fiercest of blows, playing on her foe’s insecurities and anxieties. Such may be the case when the beautiful Emily (Lauren Beatty) invited her best friend, Rowan (Lee Marshall) to a quiet, secluded cabin to spend the weekend with her and her boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros) in Bleed With Me.

Two girls having a conversation.
Lauren Beatty as Emily, Lee Marshall as Rowan in Bleed with Me

Self-destructive Rowan has serious issues and self-confidence is just one of them. She loves Emily—in fact, she may be a little obsessed with her—but she believes Emily is way out of her league despite being her best friend. Rowan also doesn’t seem to trust Emily or her feelings for Rowan which becomes a huge problem later in the film.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I trusted Emily and her feelings for Rowan either. Throughout the film, it seems that Emily felt sorry for Rowan and was her friend for just that reason—call it a pity friendship. We aren’t clued into the backstory between these two women, so it isn’t clear if they’ve been friends for decades or days. According to a conversation between Rowan and Brenden, it seems there were some significant years behind the friendship between the two women, however, when Brenden brings up Emily’s trauma surrounding her sister, Rowan wasn’t even aware that Emily had a sister. This seems like something a best friend would know. So, what else is Emily hiding?

Emily and Brenden share a toast.
Emily and Brenden share a toast with Rowan.

Bleed With Me isn’t going to be a movie for everyone as it is a slow burn…and when I say slow, I mean slow. However, don’t read that as me saying it is boring. The superb writing keeps the audience guessing about what is going on from beginning to final scene.

Troubled Rowan begins waking up with mysterious slashes on her arms. But the trio is in an isolated cabin in the middle of winter; weird things can happen. Then, she begins waking up to either lucid dreams or hallucinations of Emily drinking her blood. Poor Rowan, she’s becoming more and more unstable. Or is she? She truly believes that Emily is cutting her and stealing her blood but there are no indications that Emily is of the vampire persuasion. Is this another thing that Rowan doesn’t know about her “best” friend?

Rowan stares in the mirror.
Rowan stares in the mirror, frightened by what is happening to her.

Possibly the most terrifying thing about this film is that we are never quite sure if what is happening is Rowan’s reality or some type of dream or hallucination. Is this all part of Rowan’s depression or a psychological reaction to her extreme loneliness and feelings of unworthiness? She seems to be in awe of Emily because Emily is one of those girls who have it all yet, in one scene, Emily lifts the curtain just a little when she announces that she may not be 100 percent happy in her relationship with Brenden. Is this true or is she further manipulating Rowan into trusting her and bringing her emotionally closer? There is almost an erotic feeling to this scene which makes the viewer wonder what Emily’s endgame is. Is she truly stealing Rowan’s blood? And if she is, is she working to make Rowan fall in love with her so that she will have better access to what she wants? Is she purposely causing Rowan to lose her mind, so she is more pliable to her desires?  These are areas in which the film remains vague.

The relationship between the female characters in this film is absolutely believable. And it should be, as this freshman offering was written and directed by up-and-coming Amelia Moses, who is one to watch in the horror space. Moses knows her way around a movie as she has been working in just about every position in the industry including as a production assistant, camera operator, writer, cinematographer, editor, producer, and eventually director. In 2020, she released both this film and Bloodthirsty, another ambitious thriller. Bleed With Me was originally released to acclaim in 2020 as part of the Fantasia Film Festival.

To say that this movie is an ambitious thriller doesn’t seem to fit with its pace but stick with me on this one. Moses is dealing with a cast of only three people, yet the solid performances and direction keep you watching and watching closely because you get the feeling that if you miss a frame, you’re going to be missing some important clue as to what exactly is happening in this cabin. Add to that pacing a deliberate score and cinematic darkness that catapults the viewer into the isolation of the despair that Rowan is feeling. This is a movie that keeps you psychologically off balance and that is the true horror in this story.

This Shudder original is scheduled to begin streaming on August 10th.

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Written by Audrie Bretl Martin

Audrie Bretl Martin is a full-time communicator and a lover of all things pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Augustana College and a master's degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Iowa.

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