Writer-director Amelia Moses makes her feature debut with this tautly constructed work of psychological horror which, although far from perfect, certainly suggests she’s a talent to watch out for. Like British film-maker Rose Glass’ outstanding horror-adjacent breakthrough Saint Maud, Moses’ story circumnavigates a relationship between two women, one that is charged with an intensity that’s more than platonic but less than erotic, and inflected by an unequal power distribution.
The story takes place in Canada. We largely we see it unfold through the eyes of Rowan (Lee Marshall, excellent), a young office drone who meets the more confident and glamorous Emily (Lauren Beatty) at work when Emily saves her from a sexually predatory co-worker. With the pair having become friends, Emily invites Rowan to come with her for a holiday stay in a secluded, snow-capped cabin in the woods along with Emily’s boyfriend Brendan (Aris Tyros).
Neither Brendan nor Rowan seem entirely comfortable with this socially awkward menage, but they get on with it without anyone asking awkward questions. The jolly holiday atmosphere suddenly changes, however, after the first night, when Rowan either drinks a little too much or is perhaps slipped a mickey by one of the other two, and thinks she can see a shadowy figure making an incision on her arm and drinking her blood in the night. In the morning there’s a scar, but everyone acts as though nothing happened.
Moses keeps us guessing right the way through about what’s going on. Are either Emily or Brendan a vampire, or else those kooks who like bloodsucking and maybe even believe they’re vampires but have no actual supernatural powers? Or is Rowan what might have been called in the old days a hysteric, disturbed by her own hinted-at demons? Either way, the film lightly brushes its fingers over topics like self-harm, envy and desire, as well as the way menstruation connects women in an often unspoken way.
The woozy camerawork literalises the sense of something fuzzy and ungraspable, just out of reach or beyond earshot; it softens focus as Rowan develops a fever and becomes more and more disconnected from reality. That ambiguity about who is the hunter and who is the prey is underscored by heavy-handed use of rabbit symbolism, which even pops up in the wallpaper.
• Bleed With Me is available on 10 August on Shudder.