An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · January 10, 2019, 9:55 PM PST
BLEED (2002)

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on January 10, 2003, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

Considering that some recent slasher films are still slavishly aping the Halloween/Friday the 13th/Scream formula, it’s refreshing to discover a pair that actually pull interesting and distinct variations on the theme. Neither one truly reinvents or transcends the form, but both demonstrate that those behind the scenes had more on their minds than simply cashing in on the subgenre. And given the typically exploitative state of the marketplace, it’s interesting that they’ve come out with subtler titles than they once had; Bleed (pictured) was originally known as Make ’em Bleed, while Massacre was shortened from the initial Bikini Party Massacre.

Bleed was produced and released by Shadow Entertainment, a sort of offshoot of Full Moon, and holds the promise of a line of features better than those the latter label has released in the last couple of years. The story centers on Maddy (Debbie Rochon), a young woman whose boss asks her to a party where she learns that his circle of friends has formed a “murder club” dedicated to thrill killings. It soon becomes clear that Maddy is the wrong (or maybe right) girl to invite into a clique of professed murderers, though there are a couple of character twists along the way.

Indeed, the script by Devin Hamilton (who also co-directed with Dennis Petersen) is more concerned with the people than the slayings, which, after the brutal opening scenes, come off almost as afterthoughts. Bleed also boasts a higher level of acting than the Full Moon norm—in the indie arena, nobody does unbalanced like Rochon—with one off bit of stunt casting: If you’re seriously investigating a disturbed woman’s past in a flashback, you don’t cast Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman as her dad.

Massacre, from Brain Damage, has a more generic storyline—a group of young people on a camping trip are sequentially slaughtered in the woods—but director/writer/producer/star Joseph Clark keeps the movie interesting through odd stylistic touches. One of the best scenes is a long, one-take nightmare set on a deserted highway; later, Clark stages the obligatory going-for-help-when-the-car-runs-out-of-gas bit as a literal music video. The murders themselves are created as often as not through CGI rather than makeup FX, with genuinely startling results in a couple of cases, leading to a surprise ending similar to (and, on its own level, more persuasive than) one in a recent major film I won’t give away here.

Both features were shot on video and are letterboxed on their DVDs at around 1.75:1; each has been filmlooked, with somewhat pixillated results on Bleed and a cleaner image on Massacre. The colors on both are fine, as are the mono soundtracks. Bleed had a raft of extras promised in advance, but sadly, all that have wound up on the disc are deleted scenes and rehearsal footage. The former (presented in un-filmlooked video) are actually extended scenes, in which the additional material is largely extraneous; the latter are kinda fun to watch, if poorly miked at times. Curiously, the biographies section contains details about a few of the more obscure cast members, but not the better-known Kaufman or fellow cameo-ers Brinke Stevens and Julie Strain! In the end, the most entertaining supplement here is easily the trailer for William Shatner’s new directorial effort/Full Moon release Groom Lake, which promises to be a true jaw-dropper.

Massacre’s best feature is an entertaining, informative audio commentary by Clark, editor/visual FX creator Rick Dolishny and actor/composer Phil Jacobs. All three seem to have known exactly what they wanted, and enthusiastically recount the quick production and detailed postproduction, in which necessity was sometimes the mother of invention. (Clark admits that the aforementioned music video scene was devised largely to pad out the running time!) The other extras, however, are disappointing: Clicking “Outtakes” simply takes one back to the assortment of bloopers that run amongst the end credits, and the “Behind the Scenes” featurette covers not the movie, but a modeling shoot with one of the actresses—who, it must be said, is pretty easy on the eyes.