Monday, November 19, 2018

"I Don't Care About the Telephone. I Want a Hot Dog!" - The Bleeder (1983) aka Blodaren

If the Swedish film industry is known for one thing, it is slasher movies (or possibly art films or thrillers, but mostly slasher movies). The highlight of the nation's filmic output is undoubtedly The Bleeder (1983), also known as Blodaren, one of the brightest slasher films ever made.

Oddly, some of your universe's leading critics fail to admit The Bleeder's classic status. For example, reviewer superc0ntra writes, "This is probably the worst movie distributed to the public ever." Reviewer HumanoidOfFlesh writes, "The plot is idiotic and the acting is hideously bad....The action moves at snail's pace and the film is utterly lifeless and annoying.A chore to sit through." Reviewer psycroptic writes, "The overall quality of this film isn't all that good, in fact it really stinks."

Obviously, these reviews are misinformed, cruelly so. Please read on for an objective view of the first Swedish slasher movie...

The film opens with a young man and woman hiking along a road in the snow. They reach a road sign that has been vandalized with a skull wearing a poncho spray-painted with a black cross.

Of course, the couple continues past the sign, eventually reaching a big, abandoned house they call a cottage, unaware that something represented by the camera’s point of view is moving through the house.

The man explains that the house is abandoned because, 25 years ago, the wife of the squire drowned herself due to their boy’s illness, a blood disease that had something to do with his eyes. “They drowned, but my dad saved the kid,” the man explains. “The boy got brain damage because he stayed too long underwater.”

Of course, the couple decides to explore the apparently empty house, but the woman chickens out. The man enters alone, singing the Banana Boat Song for some reason.

In a second floor window, the man is attacked by someone or something, but the woman thinks he is playing a prank. When she looks for him in the house, she is startled by the image of a large man pushing a baby carriage. The man chases her, growling, and finally pulls her screaming into a dark room.

Three months later, a female rock band called Rock Cats is playing a festival somewhere in Sweden (as a caption helpfully informs us). Their song is enthusiastically received by several of the dozen or so audience members watching them.

Later, backstage, one of their fans says, “You gals need to come back. Otherwise, we’ll beat you up.” Then the five members of Rock Cats board their little travel bus and, still wearing their highly uncomfortable costumes, drive away.

Unfortunately, the bus breaks down somewhere in the middle of the Swedish forest. “This is so typical. It’s the fourth time already,” says one of the musicians.

The five blonde musicians all leave the van and decide to walk through the woods to the nearest village, Bifors. Of course, they take their instruments with them so they won’t be stolen while locked in the van. There is some discussion of taking clothes with them, but they decide the musical instruments will be sufficient.

Meanwhile, a forest ranger with the largest orange walkie talkie known to man finds out the girls’ bus is parked on the road near him, and is assigned to check out the bus.

He takes his canoe onto the lake to investigate. During his canoe trip, we learn via walkie talkie that his employers are willing to extend his job past the summer, but he wants to go to the Amazon. We also find out that the brain-damaged son who almost drowned has escaped from his institution.

The Rock Cats quickly find the abandoned barn and house where the couple from the opening sequence were attacked. They decide to look inside the house for a telephone. “I don’t care about the telephone,” says one of the girls. “I want a hot dog.”

In the house, they find blood, as well as an old baby carriage with a skull inside.

They run away from the house just before the killer walks out the side door, though they do not notice the killer.

The forest ranger arrives at the abandoned property just after the Rock Cats leave, allowing for him to encounter the surreal image of a hand emerging from a window grasping at the air.

The hand belongs to a bloody young girl holding a teddy bear. She runs away from the ranger and drops her bear. The ranger gets back in his canoe and paddles away. The black-gloved killer picks up the teddy bear.

We continue to follow the Rock Cats on their trek through the forest. For approximately five minutes, we watch their amusement as they page through what appears to be a pornographic magazine. We also watch as the killer with the baby carriage follows them.

One of the girls, Maria, loses her engagement ring, so she backtracks along the path to find it. Unfortunately for her, she encounters the killer, who grabs at her until she falls into the water. After a thrilling chase scene, punctuated by a nicely photographed duel where Maria wields a pitchfork and the killer, represented by the camera’s POV, wields a knife—a duel that ends when Maria simply drops the pitchfork and runs—Maria is tragically subdued.

The remaining four Rock Cats break into an abandoned inn full of bloody sinks and basins. “Look, a coffin,” says one of the girls, indicating a small chest. They open the chest to find another skull inside, so they decide to continue their trek through the woods, but they decide, sensibly, to leave one of their group, Eva, behind to wait for Maria—though instead of waiting, she wanders into the woods, where the killer attacks her near Maria’s dead body.

Oddly, instead of killing Eva, the villain forces her to crawl inside a drainage pipe. He follows her inside, chuckling, and we hear her scream.

Meanwhile, the three remaining Rock Cats play in a dilapidated playhouse.

They then find yet another abandoned mansion in the forest. “It looks like the castle of Sleeping Beauty,” says one of the women, “but without the prince.”

They enter the abandoned house and find a plastic bag full of firecrackers. “Maybe they celebrated Easter, or New Year’s Eve.”

“Or both!”

While the Rock Cats explore the house, the killer carries his latest unconscious victim into what appears to be the previous house, though every house looks the same on the inside. The killer waits for Eva to wake up by pounding on a drum to the tune of the children’s song Alouette.

In the other house, the women find a letter from a doctor about the son’s blood disease, but they do not find any useful information.

In a surreal sequence, another of the Rock Cats goes back to look for Eva and Maria. She encounters the killer crawling out of the drainage pipe. Thinking nothing of the situation, she asks, “Excuse me, is there a phone nearby?”

The killer turns to reveal his bloody face. The Rock Cat, Nulle, runs away screaming. A chase ensues not unlike the chase in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), though instead of waving a chainsaw, the killer swings a right blue gym bag over his head.

In a clever homage to Rear Window (1954), Nulle fends off the killer by taking Polaroid pictures of him with a flash. He appears particularly susceptible to the blinding flash. Unfortunately for Nulle, he snaps her neck despite being blinded by the flash (which was perhaps the original climax of Rear Window). Later, the killer wheels Nulle’s bloody body around in his baby carriage.

In the thrilling climactic chase, the killer chases the final girl through one of the houses. Showing her resourcefulness, she uses the remaining firecrackers to fend off the villain, though she is unfortunately unable to open an unlocked door. The ranger in the canoe, Danne, reaches the two as they struggle. He fires a rifle, startling the killer, and the final girl runs to his canoe. Incongruously, or perhaps euphemistically, he says, “You’re lucky I passed by to check on my mink traps.”

By an incredible stroke of luck, Danne has a car parked nearby. He drives the final girl away, but he stops when he sees the killer and he gives chase on foot with his rifle. He discovers most of the murdered Rock Cats. The climax occurs on the roof of one of the houses, where it appears the killer is killed, though we later see him moving—and he returns to haunt the final girl’s dreams.

As an avowed fan of minimalist horror movies, I must proclaim that The Bleeder is one of them. The small number of settings is quite effective at building a sense of unease, as the audience understands that the Bleeder could be anywhere, inside or outside of the collection of abandoned houses in the middle of the woods.

The film is also easy on the eyes, as they say, because the lack of nighttime scenes does not strain one's vision. The daylight is helpful for those who do not appreciate jump scares as well, because there is not darkness out of which something might jump. Even the darkest encounter--Eva crawling through the drainage pipe--is not shown onscreen. It must be said that this is quite an innovation for a slasher movie, most of which take place primarily at night. It is a shame that more slasher movies did not take up the mantle and take place entirely in daylight.

In the end, The Bleeder is a unique classic because it takes slasher tropes and, instead of subverting them, presents them intact to the camera in the middle of the day. Some slasher purists might complain about the lack of blood, violence, and suspense, but the film is truly an exercise in minimalism, and by eliminating these distractions, the filmmakers are able to pare the slasher movie down to its basics. That is, a female rock band, a man in a canoe, and of course a balding killer with a baby carriage.