The House That Bleeds opens like a classic horror genre piece, with a title card and score straight out of a Vincent price production. I admit after seeing this I did have a slight preconceived notion of what was to unfold… but to my absolute surprise, I was met with a premise I have not experienced before – a haunted house horror film with live action puppets as the protagonists.
I couldn’t help but find my mind racing with excitement trying to remember whether I’ve even seen a horror piece with live action puppetry (I have not). A bit of context – the director, Ben Ellis-Nicholson was forced into making fundamental changes due to filming restrictions that arose after covid-19 protocols were put in place within the film industry. What I find most interesting regarding this is that if not for a global pandemic, The House That Bleeds as we see it today would simply not exist.
Generally, if I’m to lean on stereotypes for guidance, horror writers focus predominantly on curating an atmosphere and as a result of that what tends to be neglected is the dialogue, sadly that’s what we have here. As a horror director you’re almost spoilt for choice in terms of the ways in which you can go about constructing the atmosphere you require, so I find it disappointing and frustrating when a filmmaker does not use all of the tools within their disposal. In the 10 minute runtime, director Ben Ellis-Nicholson did manage to build an atmosphere and set the scene for a creepy haunted house feature. So much so that after viewing I found myself full of nostalgia reminiscing on my favourite horror genre pieces. From a technical perspective, the art direction, set design and score all worked in tandem to create a thoroughly creepy effect that true horror fans will appreciate immensely.
Using voice actors for a horror piece is a risk as the viewer relies on subtle cues from the actors. Whether that be a glance at the creaky wooden door or the tremble in between a whisper, if the quality of voice actor is not up to par it is uncomfortably noticeable. In The House That Bleeds, I was thrown off balance by the voices as I found that they sounded and felt very much like a separate entity. There were points when I found myself picturing the faces of the actors which broke the cinematic spell entirely. The female’s voice in particular was difficult to empathise with, she began at a 10 and once you’re at that level it is very difficult for the audience to see any progression in terms of building up that feeling of agitation and fear. The human element is what forms that connection between the film and the audience as we root for our protagonists survival and triumph, you lose that raw instinctive feeling when using puppets.
I am what you’d call a blood aficionado, so if a film references blood within its title I expect a high quality showing of blood whether that be in the use of blood or the general consistency of the blood used – in this case I was not at all convinced. I enjoyed the establishing shots of the house and the surrounding area and overall the concept is a memorable one but the deeper you delve into this particular feature the more the execution begins to dilute your initial excitement. The House That Bleeds lacks a coherent story and relies on the audience’s nostalgia tinted eyes to keep it afloat, that being said it is definitely worth the watch if only for nostalgia’s sake.
I hope to see more horror films shot in this way, but executed with a steadier and more focused hand. The creativity and ingenuity of filmmakers will never cease to amaze me, I am almost giddy with excitement at the ways in which this global pandemic will continue to affect and change cinema in the coming future.
Reveiwed by Nicole