Canadian indie horror film Hemorrhage is a slow burn that starts with a bang, a gunshot that goes right through you and ricochets in your brain for another hour. Opening with some pseudo documentary interviews and antique surgical footage, Hemorrhage works because it focuses on characters and story to create atmosphere instead of relying on cheap scares and gratuitous gore. It’s not so much scary as deeply unsettling. First time director Braden Croft pulls out great performances from his cast and uses a tiny budget to his advantage. It also manages to put the “psycho” back into psycho-killer.
Lead actor Alex D. Mackie does a great job as Oliver, a young man who has just been released from the mental institution where he has served 6 years of a sentence that we can only assume is related to something very violent. Determined to “be a good person,” he soon finds himself working as a janitor at an abortion clinic where he does his best to stay out of the way until he sees Claire (Brittney Grabill). Against the advice of his therapist, Oliver pursues her, surprising both of them in the end. While fans of this type of film may see the ending coming from the moment Claire enters the scene, the film manages to upend our expectations at almost every turn.
Mackie manages to be both cripplingly sympathetic and unsettlingly cold as the tortured Oliver. We can see the genius that his illness holds back, but we also know that at any moment things could explode into violence. Grabill similarly underplays the role of victim Claire, a woman who holds her own secret wounds, creating an unlikely and surprisingly touching bond with Oliver. The tenderness that Claire and Oliver share is almost as upsetting as any of the violence.
Unfortunately, the viewer does manage to catch up by the end of the film and the twists and turns become gentle and expected curves. The score is at times atmospheric, at others overbearing, particularly as the film hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion. While not a home run, Hemorrhage succeeds at what many Canadian indies attempt and fail at: high concept psychological, character driven horror. Definitely talents to watch for.