The Bleeding suffers from its run-of the-mill plot, a sub-par script and a weird and ineffective form of narration.
The film starts out in the middle of a chase, which actually takes place more than an hour into the film; then everything flashes back in order to fill the gaps. But many gaps are left unfilled, as many a past event as well as some mythology is hinted at but neither expanded nor explained.
As many scenes involve the hero travelling alone (apparently he does not like talking and rarely really interacts with anyone), his “thoughts” are revealed to us through his voice talking over the scene from the off. This leads to the weird feeling in the first half of the film that our hero, Shawn Black (played by newcomer Michael Matthias), is sort of shifted around from scene to scene like a piece of furniture. His acting skills may as yet be underdeveloped, but the main cause of this feeling is the way this film is narrated. Stand there, look brooding, hold the gun, flex your muscles – these seem to be the kind of instructions director Charlie Picerni based his film on.
Need an example? About 37 minutes into the film, Shawn has a crisis of confidence which he has to work through in order to come to a decision. Now, you could display this by having the character talk to someone, or by giving the actor enough time to display an array of emotions that signify a developmental process (although I am not sure at all if Matthias would have been able to pull that off). Instead, Picerni’s way of showing us Shawn’s crisis of confidence is to have him run around a forest (and possibly praying) in a quickly and randomly edited montage with a weird selection of close-ups. For good measure, the camera is occasionally directed at the sun in order to create some lens-flares. That whole passage lasts for just over one minute: crisis over, decision made, Jesus tattoo appropriately flashed into camera.
That certainly is one way of doing it – but it is not a good way. It betrays the director’s lack of trust in his own abilities, his lead actor, and the script.
Apart from the male lead, two supporting characters stand out.
Veteran supporting actor Michael Madsen does a great job as the disillusioned wacko priest – a trope that, it seems to me, is fast becoming a tired cliché in vampire films.
Another veteran actor gracing this film with a support performance is Vinnie Jones as the chief villain. Unlike Madsen, however, he hams it up so bad as to be partly ruining what little enjoyment this film can provide.
The action sequences are not worth much in my opinion – rather disappointing considering that the director is actually a stunt man by trade. The picture is mostly too dark to see much (except explosions), and there seems to be little rhyme or reason to how the vampires die when they die. The gun battles suffer from the old impervious-hero-syndrome, where our hero can be shot at repeatedly by a large number of enemies with machine guns without ever being hit, while he himself floors them by the dozen with only a few shots.
Talking of weird shoot-outs: for one of the central scenes the writer and the director painted themselves into a corner: vampires and victims were so intermingled into one big mass that it seems highly likely that our band of heroes killed dozens of innocents while randomly shooting at the vampires in the crowd. That does not include the hundreds of humans that had already died at this point because of our hero’s inability to set priorities and his lack of focus.
As fas as s the script is concerned, one might say that – minor inconsistencies aside (including a pitiful attempt to create an origin story for our hero) – the plot was not that bad. Simply a pretty solid average B-movie-plot. However, Lance Lane’s writing lacked decent lines for the actors to deliver. There were some decent lines, but just not enough of them and not of consistent enough quality throughout the film.
It may be a peculiar style of Lane, or the self-awareness that he cannot do dialogue, that leads to a film in which people rarely talk to each other. Sure, they “interact” in a way (if they must), but even then they are chiefly throwing monologues into each others face.
The biggest criticism of the script is the fact that the plot resembles closely so many other B-movie plots. There is nothing new, or special, or engaging about this film. I do not mind film-makers walking on old paths and revisiting old plots if they in turn deliver a polished and outstanding product. But in cases like this one, where mediocrity is all that can be hoped and aimed for, you need to come up with something new. Low budget has to be balanced by higher creativity. And there is nothing creative about this script or this film. Trying to shoehorn a connection to the war in Afghanistan into this film does not help, as little as the attempt to sort of also make this film about cool cars (but just a bit). You cannot just sprinkle 2% of Fast & Furious into a mediocre vampire film and hope it will somehow improve it. Nothing of this is creative, but merely a failed attempt at creativity.
What can we take away from this film?
Lance Lane should not attempt to write screenplays on his own. He urgently needs the input and the talents of a partner.
Meanwhile, Michael Matthias should not play lead roles as he is not (yet) able to carry a film on his own. He seems, however, to be decent supporting or side-kick material – as someone’s less-talking-more-punching muscle, for example.
The current imdb-rating for The Bleeding is 3.0 out of 10, and I would say that anything between 3.0 and 3.5 seems fair. If you are in a very gracious mood, you might even want to give this film a 4.0. I could not recommend this film to anyone unless they are a fan of Madsen, or need a B-movie running in the background during a Halloween party.