Bloodletting (1997) Movie Review

“Bloodletting” is a low budget film that lets us in on the little known fact that, underneath all that blood spilling and mass killing, serial killers are people just like us. Or something like that. Written and directed by Matthew Walsh, “Bloodletting” tells the tale of Serena (Ariauna Albright), a bored young woman who decides she wants to become an apprentice to Harlow (James Edwards), an elusive serial killer who apparently is not elusive enough.

Her reason? Poor Serena has never achieved a real sexual orgasm in her life; that is, until she witnessed Harlow murder her best friend. Since Serena is the kind of gal who likes her orgasms, she tracks down Harlow, a plain-looking young man living in the suburbs, and blackmails him into taking her under his wing. Harlow grudgingly agrees, and after the duo’s first murder, things take a strange turn, as the serial killer couple becomes more bickering spouses than America’s most wanted.

“Bloodletting” has a very interesting premise, and the oddball relationship between Serena and Harlow is actually quite a novel set up. Unfortunately the movie suffers from Low Budget Movie Syndrome and is unable to completely shed its genesis. In this way, it falls into the trap of so many low budget films; that is, the technical expertise to set up, light, and shoot a scene in a crisp and clear manner is simply not there. Or perhaps it was a matter of not enough time; whatever the case, the film has moments where it just doesn’t look very good.

The cinematography by David Wagner is the prime suspect here. The interior scenes are just not very good to look at, mostly because, I suspect, there is very little technical competency with the lightning. The movie’s (much better) exterior scenes prove this out, as you would be hardpressed to guess the film’s budget from the crispness provided by bright natural lightning.

Another pitfall of most low budget films is inconsistent acting. The acting level in “Bloodletting” dips and rises in any given scene. Star Ariauna Albright has top billing, although I’m not sure why because it’s James Edwards who steals the show as the flippant serial killer, Harlow. Edwards looks like Howard Stern jokeman Artie Lange, but with the comic sensibilities of Drew Carey. The man acts rings around his co-stars, proving himself to be more than the material. It’s not my intention to dump on Albright, because she does get better as the film moved along.

The problem with some low budget films is that the director feels it is necessary to overdo it in some categories in order to make up for what’s lacking. The gore in “Bloodletting” is done with glee, even if not every one of them passes muster. A scene where a character’s penis gets bitten off looks much too fake; the whole thing might have come through better if it had taken place off screen, with the, uh, dismembering implied rather than shown in gory detail.

Walsh obviously cut his teeth on low budget gore, as many filmmakers in his area do, and it shows. Although with the material he had at hand, perhaps cutting down on the gore and choosing instead for more plotting and implied violence would have been the better choice. Even though there are times when Walsh’s screenplay suffers from too much glibness, the makings of a good script is here. Sometimes the dialogue comes out wrong, and sometimes (especially in the beginning) actors just don’t deliver their lines as well as Walsh probably hoped. The two “cops” in the beginning are especially bad.

There is a lot to like about “Bloodletting”, but there’s also a lot I don’t care for. There is a twist at the end that comes completely out of left field and makes absolutely no sense, even if you could suspend that much disbelief. It does leave me to wonder if Walsh wrote the “confession” sequence into the script or if the whole thing was added at the last minute in an attempt to give the viewers a “shock ending.” Whatever the case, the movie didn’t need it.

Matthew Jason Walsh (director) / Matthew Jason Walsh (screenplay)
CAST: Ariauna Albright …. Serena Stalin
Nina Angeloff …. Bobbie Jo
Theresa Constantine …. June


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