Written by: moviemaven
Not so long ago I reviewed a film by an up and coming, die hard horror writer/director called The Last Battleground. The man behind that film as well as this one is Sonny Fernandez. Watching a film by Sonny is an experience and one that I always look forward to. He forces my critical eye into his perspective and makes me remember what I have loved about horror all of my life. His movies are gritty, unkempt, bare bones and in my mind brilliant.
To say I am a fan doesn't do him justice. I am a fan, true enough, but there is a deeper admiration tied in as well. To watch Sonny in action is an education in what it takes to get your vision across when you lack the backing of big budgets and studios. He is a force. Now some of you may watch his film based on the fact that I love it so much and come back to me saying "what the hell, Maven?" If you did as much I wouldn't think ill of you. And I don't believe Sonny would either. They may not be so pretty in places and they may not have A-list actors or even professional actors at all. But what they do have is integrity and an honesty that we rarely see coming from studios these days. And if you allow yourself to open your mind a little, to remember what it is that draws you to the genre, then perhaps you can enjoy them as I do. If you push past the no-budget production value and the often clumsy delivery of his dialog, you will find a director with a good eye and a writer with a soul steeped in horror. Then it all becomes clear. This is a man who puts every fiber of his being into his craft. He is making his visions come to life in the best and only way he knows how, using ingenuity and creativity; two things that often fall by the wayside when a film maker has the option of throwing money at a project. Sonny's films are charming in their ugliness in that they lack the entrapments of high dollar special effects that many use to distract from the grit of the story. With a Fernandez film, what you see is what you get. And what you get is a thought-provoking story and good time.
On to the film at hand. Bleed is a film of epic length and the favorite of many Fernandez fans. It took more than a year to complete and I imagine that is a solid year of hard work and determination on the part of everyone involved. The story goes a little like this. Six teens awaken from nightmares one night to find themselves drawn to a specific corner of the street in their town. None of them know why and they have no real connection to each other. But when they gather at the spot and recount their dreams, they discover that they have at least one thing in common so they set out to see if they can determine why they have ended up together. To their dismay and concern they discover that their town is abandoned except for them. There are no lawmen to whom they can go to for help. There are no parents or teachers or clergy or any other form of authority. There is no one. Next they do what seems rational. They pile into a car and attempt to leave. But they find they are trapped. Every attempt to vacate the ghost town lands them right back where they started, regardless of the chosen route. And when the Sun goes down the monsters come out to play. Often reminiscent of stories like I Am Legend, Bleed traps our band of left-behinds within the confines of their tiny sanctuary. The only thing they can do is survive. As time passes it becomes known to them that others are suffering the same fate. There is another band of youths trapped as they are but with a much darker attitude toward this new life without laws. Who, really, are the monsters? And can they survive each other as well as the creatures who rule the night long enough to find their way back to the life from which they were snatched?
Bleed is not my favorite film of Sonny's. I found The Last Battleground to be more entertaining but it is heavily steeped in Lovecraft so that could explain a lot of why. I also feel that the performances are a little spottier in Bleed so at times it may seem that the long running time is too much. And admittedly Battleground was also my first foray into Fernandez so I'm sure it will always be my favorite on some level. But Bleed is a commentary on us as much as it is anything. Much like Romero with his Dead films, Sonny taps into the roots of man's evil and the evils they commit. And again, like Romero, he leads us along the path of discovery to the fact that we are our own worst enemies. When law is absent the darkest parts of us will claw their way to the top.
Now, again my disclaimer. If you are looking for slick, shiny productions with actors and budgets, don't follow me to Sonny Land. But if you are looking for passion, creativity and heart I beg you to join me in this journey. Sonny Fernandez employs guerilla film making at its best, using whatever means necessary to get his ideas on film. That is what truly draws me to his work. His stories are really very good and I can only imagine that with a budget he could create something incredible. But until that time I will continue to enjoy the ride for what it is. Pure, unadulterated love of the genre and more enthusiasm than most studio power houses can muster on their best days