Michael Matthias as Shawn Black
Vinnie Jones as Cain
Michael Madsen as Father Roy
Armand Assante as Jake Plummer
DMX as Tagg
Katherine von Drachenberg as Vanya
Directed by Charles Picerni
Years ago, as a young horror fan, I thought it was an achievable â€“ even desirable â€“ goal to see every horror film ever made. Nowadays, I would describe anyone who felt that way as a masochist. The thing is, once upon a time even ineptly made horror movies were fun to watch because they had a scrappy spirit to them and a modicum of creative fire. Today's bad movies more often than not just feel like soulless, cynical enterprises. Case in point: The Bleeding. It's bad enough to go to the theaters and suffer through films as tedious as The Rite or as empty-headed as The Roommate but to suffer through the entirety of The Bleeding in one's own home seems like an insane act of self-punishment.
To be fair, it's not unreasonable to expect that The Bleeding will be a dopey good time. When you've got the unlikely cast roster of Michael Madsen, DMX, Vinnie Jones, Armand Assante, and Kat Von D in a vampire romp, it sounds too ridiculous not to be fun. Unfortunately, The Bleeding is a B-movie depressingly unaware of its own B-movie potential.
Up and coming DTV action star (and Vin Diesel look-alike) Michael Matthias is ex-Army Ranger Shawn Black, a man whose brother was declared MIA in Afghanistan. Soon, he discovers that this lost brother Cain (Jones) has taken on a new role in the world, that of a king vampire. And, because they share the same bloodline, only Shawn can end Cain's reign of terror (given the lip service paid to the brotherly bond between Cain and Shawn, I'm surprised that Shawn wasn't given the Biblical handle of Abel).
Madsen plays Father Roy, a cynical priest who's part of the secret war against vampires. He knows trouble when he sees it but can't help giving Shawn some assistance in putting Cain and his unholy army to rest.
The Bleeding climaxes on a stretch of nighttime road, with Shawn hijacking a tractor-trailer carrying coffins meant for Cain and his minions and attempting to drive it out of their grasp before the sun comes up. Cain and his band of bloodsuckers give chase by car and motorcycles and Shawn must rely on his guts, firepower, and the help of his new lady friend Lena (former UFC ring girl Rachelle Leah) if he's going to out race and out fight the fanged fiends. Ideally, this should make for a rousing finale but it contains none of the seat-clutching thrills found in similar high-speed chases in films like The Road Warrior (1981).
Now, understandably, The Road Warrior's famous climatic race set a bar that is not likely to ever be equaled by a DTV film. But even allowing for the fact that some goals are legitimately beyond The Bleeding's reach, the fact that The Bleeding consistently fails in staging any successful action scenes can't be overlooked. The Bleeding is full of fight scenes, shoot-outs, and car chases but yet not a single one of them is exciting to watch. Frankly, it baffles and saddens me. How have we come to a point where the makers of low budget exploitation films have so completely lost their handle on what used to be the bread and butter of the exploitation genre? Fight scenes. Shoot-outs. Car chases. Hell, any TV cop show from the â€˜70s had these elements in spades and did them well week in and week out.
There's a scene â€“ or rather a lack of a scene â€“ that perfectly epitomizes what's wrong with The Bleeding. At one point, Shawn infiltrates the old factory that Cain has converted into an underground dance club. In a room away from the eyes of the unsuspecting partiers, Shawn discovers a monstrous, ogre-like thug butchering a female victim on a table with several more victims-to-be chained up nearby. Shawn approaches this man-mountain from behind, knocks him out cold with a blow from a metal pole, and then escorts the women to safety. Nowâ€¦this just seems like a missed opportunity. As soon as you see this giant freak, the expectation is that Shawn is going to have a serious fight on his hands. When this goon is clocked from behind, I was waiting for him get up, shake it off and launch into a full-blown brawl. But instead, Big Ugly goes down quick and stays down.
Back in the day, no self-respecting B-moviemaker would've let the chance to stage a cool fight just slide by untouched. Filmmakers knew that their audience was all about action. The fact that director Charlie Picerni (experienced as a TV director on programs ranging from T.J. Hooker to Tales from the Crypt and, ironically, best known as a stunt man and stunt coordinator) introduces an ideal adversary for his hero and then moves on without taking advantage of it says it all about why The Bleeding is such an unsatisfying film.
In the end, The Bleeding is aptly named. Not because it's about vampires but because it bleeds you of your time, your money, and your hope in low-budget thrills.