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February 6, 2011

Movie Review: Bleading Lady (2011)

Ryan Nicholson's latest blood-drenched thriller was originally announced as STAR VEHICLE. Later the tile BLEEDING LADY was used. The movie will finally be released on March 29 with the oddly-spelled title BLEADING LADY. I was at least a third into the movie before I realized why the odd spelling. The story involves a Scream Queen and her stalker; in other words, a B-movie LEADING LADY. Maybe I am a little slow, but I found the pun awkward and forced; and that I find a perfect metaphor for the finished movie.

Buy Bleading Lady on DVD

Nicholson is a Canadian make-up effects artist whose work goes back to David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. He's worked on The X-Files, The Outer Limits and many Vancouver-based productions. But almost from the start of his career he has been busy witing and directing his own productions, like NECROPAHGIA, GUTTERBALLS and EVIL FEED. The effects work in his movies is always very good, as would be expected. And he always delivers the goods for the gore hounds. But in my opinion he has a lot to learn about telling a good story, and his latest is no different.

It's kind of an interesting setup for this time around. Don the chauffeur (Dan Ellis) is a very serious fellow. He is hired to drive on a micro-budget slasher film starring his favorite scream queen, Riversa Red (Sindy Faraguna). But, knowing she has faced repeated threats from a mysterious stalker, he starts flexing his muscles and becomes her self-appointed body guard. Don takes offense with the pretentious director (Nathan Durec), and pretty much all the other movie-crew-types that surround him, and soon the bodies start piling up. There are lots of twists and turns before we are through, but I found most of them pretty ludicrous.

We know in the first few minutes of the film that Don is a killer. He does away with some annoying young people before the credits roll. The scene is awkwardly handled and feels like an afterthought, designed to get us into the action quicker. The dialogue feels ad-libbed, the word "fuck" occurring at least three times in each truncated sentence. I paraphrase: "Fuck, dude, what the fuck are you doing, hey, what the fuck, fucking don't dude, fuck, man please..." I was ready to kill the stupid fuckers myself! The rest of the movie plays better than that, but is sloppy in the details and way too broadly to be gripping.

The movie walks a tight rope between a standard narrative style - with the camera operating as third-person omnipotent observer - and a mockumentary approach with a character in the film video taping the action. This is jarring and led me to believe that Nicholson had not made some basic choices about how to tell his story before he began shooting. He wants the action to play with the kind of real-life intensity that one finds in films like Eric Stanze's SCRAPBOOK, but neither Nicholson nor his cast is up to that level of focus. For instance, when the actors are playing in front of a visible camera, supposedly scenes from the movie they are making, the acting is comically stilted. Director Nicholson clearly wants to make a contrast between the "reel" scenes and the "real" scenes; but the contrast is too broad and too comical for us to believe these people were actually hired to perform in a real movie It kicks the viewer out of the movie, and ruins our suspension of disbelief.

The acting is better than average in a ultra-low budget movie like this one. If not always completely believable, I found the cast pretty competent. The sole exception being the pivotal role of Riversa Red, whose histrionic huffing and puffing, meant to show the intensity of her terror in the final scenes, is comical and annoying .

So, if you rent this stuff for the gore and the nudity, you won't be disappointed. The gore effects are pretty expertly handled. One eviscerated torso, for instance, seen hanging from a tree, is as realistic a body prop as I can ever remember seeing. But if you, like me, demand some story and subtext for your gore to support, you will want to look elsewhere.

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