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Bloodletting (August 16/03)

Though it's not particularly well acted and the low-budget is evident throughout, Bloodletting is nonetheless a surprisingly effective little horror flick.

Serena (Ariauna Albright) survived an attack by a vicious serial killer named Butch (James L. Edwards) several years ago, and has finally tracked the man down. But it's not revenge she wants; instead, Serena wants to learn from Butch the ins-and-outs of murdering (turns out she had her first orgasm that fateful night). Butch is initially apprehensive (not surprisingly), but changes his mind after taking Serena along on a gig. She's got a real knack for violence, and Butch finds himself intrigued by the ease with which she's able to take lives.

Bloodletting's been written and directed by Matthew Jason Walsh, and it becomes clear almost instantly that he's got a real knack for snappy dialogue. Though it's occasionally a little too Tarantino-esque for its own good (which Walsh recognizes, by actually referencing Q.T. at one point), the back-and-forth banter between Serena and Butch is the obvious highlight of the film. These characters are incredibly verbose, and it's the sequences that feature Butch explaining his unique lifestyle that are the movie's most interesting. In particular, an early scene in which Butch teaches Serena about working as a serial killer without getting caught is quite effective. That Butch treats his penchant for inflicting death as just another job is an interesting premise, and Walsh does a nice job of straddling the line between black humor and ridiculousness.

But somewhere around the mid-point of Bloodletting, the film begins to lose its way. Where it had been an intriguing examination of a bizarre relationship, it becomes disappointingly unfocused. Butch and Serena head their separate ways one night, and both manage to find themselves in ludicrous situations. After wandering into a video store, Butch winds up spending the evening with a hot-to-trot lesbian, her dim-witted friend, and their even more dim-witted friend. Meanwhile, Serena's picked up in a bar by a nice guy that turns out to be some kind of a rapist. The whole thing just smacks of desperation, as though Walsh couldn't figure out what to do with these characters for an additional half hour. And then there's the ending, which would've been fine if Walsh hadn't felt it necessary to throw in revelations relating to both Butch and Serena. Specifically, the true nature of Butch's identity just doesn't jive with what we've learned about the character up to that point.

Still, Bloodletting's mostly entertaining, and Walsh deserves some kudos for treating the material seriously (and not as a comedy, which must have been a temptation). And hey, this is the first movie I've ever seen in which a baby gets brutally murdered, so there's some historical significance going on here.

out of

About the DVD: Along with a remastered full-frame transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the Bloodletting DVD comes armed with quite a bit of extras. A commentary track featuring Walsh, Albright, and Edwards is incredibly entertaining and informative, while the 35-minute behind-the-scenes featurette does a nice job of detailing what went into making this super low-budget flick. Also included is two-minutes worth of deleted scenes, and the short film that inspired Bloodletting.