Studio: Phase 4 Films
Director: Braden Croft
Writer: Braden Croft
Producer: Liz Levine, Adrian Salpeter, Sam Sheplawy, Braden Croft
Stars: Alex D. Mackie, Brittney Grabill, Ryland Alexander, Diane Wallace, Samara Sedmak, Zachary Parsons-Lozinski
A recovering mental patient has his attempt to reintegrate into society thwarted when he is convinced to kidnap a young nurse.
“Hemorrhage” is of a low-budget level that is all too common in the new age of digital filmmaking and distribution. It is one of those passion projects made from friendships and favors more than old-fashioned dollars and cents. Expect to see the same last names repeated often in the end credits and try to guess if it was sibling, parent, or spouse who helped a significant other in the cast or crew by playing a background part or three.
Less than a dozen people are listed as below-the-line crewmembers. Writer/director Braden Croft pulls quintuple duty on his own film by adding cinematography, editing, and speaking role to his hat-swapping rotation. Assuming Sam and Samantha are one and the same, Ms. Sheplawy finds time to feature as a restaurant patron when not busy with her producer, production design, or art direction duties. Even gaffer Ben Bucholtz is unable to escape a second assignment by putting his facial hair to good use in the cast as “Bearded Housemate.”
The funny thing is, the only way someone would know any of the above is if s/he stays tuned through the entire credit scroll, which takes less than two minutes anyway. “Hemorrhage” successfully hides its grassroots genesis behind collective dedication to a unique vision.
“Hemorrhage” is the rarest form of little-known feature from a first-time director squeezing every drop of sweat from a small group. It is actually worth seeing.
That statement comes with a caveat. A disclaimer that the movie is not for everyone carries as much informational value as a prediction that the sun will rise tomorrow. But “Hemorrhage” is a film that cannot be approached as a conventional thriller and it requires a willingness to move at the same rate as the narrative. Otherwise, the wheels are prone to fall off the wagon in short order.
The character dissection comprising the movie’s center focuses on Oliver, a once promising Harvard medical student whose unknown past committed him to a mental hospital. The second arc belongs to Claire, a young nurse who initially returns Oliver’s awkward advances when he is released back into society. Oliver quickly turns from suitor to kidnapper after his murderous alter ego Ronnie reappears in hallucinations and convinces Oliver to go on the run with Claire as his reluctant passenger.
Oliver is unsure of where he is going with Claire, what he is doing, or why. To some extent, “Hemorrhage” is too. Writer/director Croft deliberately favors mood over plot. The movie excels at unsettling tension by walking an unclear path to the characters’ futures as well as from their shadowed pasts. Concurrently, the same side of that coin featuring hazy motivations and hushed mysteries will frustrate all those looking for more literal sense from the story.
“Hemorrhage” never allows its audience to be clued in all the way. The effectiveness relies on viewer unbalance and buying into the mental drama taking place in between the dialogue and within the psychological portraits painted. To wander too far ahead with questions about why Claire does not make the most of escape opportunities or wondering about Oliver’s dark secret is to miss the fact that “Hemorrhage” is not a procedural horror film about a killer and a victim. It is a study of struggling human bonds amidst a state of mental collapse.
With a description like that, the universally true statement about not being for everyone makes its validity more obvious. “Hemorrhage” loses ground in the back third by going too cerebral thematically, but it is reeled in by Brittney Grabill’s understated performance as Claire. Alex D. Mackie has some shaky acting moments in the lead role, although his physical presence captures the blend of feeble and fearsome that is essential for making Oliver work. Mackie and Grabill both sell their screen personas through gestures, expressions, and unspoken moments. It possibly cannot be emphasized enough, but for “Hemorrhage” to work requires the viewer to actively participate in seeing these subtleties that the script is not forcing into the face.
Independent horror filmmakers of the world, take note. “Hemorrhage” proves that a micro-budget and a crew consisting of generous friends does not automatically exclude professional quality and a competitive edge. Even with a story better executed psychologically than physically, “Hemorrhage” makes the most of its limited scope and fledgling talent to put forth a movie of high value and genuine worth.
Review Score: 70