When close-knit characters talk in awkwardly roundabout ways because the filmmaker wants to stave off the release of key information as long as possible, you know you're in trouble. Writer-director Philip Gelatt's regrettably pretentious horror indie "The Bleeding House" drops us into the hermetically sealed world of a family in an isolated country residence whose exile status in the community has something to do with their strange teenage daughter (Alexandra Chando).
Why does she pin insects all over the walls? Why is the grown son (Charlie Hewson) planning to run away? Why does mom (Betsy Aidem) lock up the knives after making dinner? More importantly, though, why would they let in a stranded, white-linen-suited stranger (Patrick Breen) with a doctor's bag who speaks in Southern-accented homilies as if he'd stepped out of a bad Tennessee Williams melodrama?
The eccentric visitor is no gentleman of a caller, it turns out, but a malevolent messenger whose punishing actions deliver on the title's descriptive promise and (finally) some background details. But they also tip the movie toward overinflated morality-play ambitions that rob the family's secret of real tragedy and the claustrophobic-horror framework of meaningful suspense.
-- Robert Abele
"The Bleeding House." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.