Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding (2024) is the second film by Rose Glass, the British writer-director who made waves with her psychological spiritual horror Saint Maud. Now, Glass reunites with A24 for a queer crime drama that follows aimless gym trainer Lou (Kristen Stewart) and passionate bodybuilder Jack (Katy O’ Brian) fall in love and navigate the blood-soaked chaos of 80s-era New Mexico.

Two A-listers and one breakout star. While Stewart stars as the cynical Lou, Harris plays her estranged father. Both actors have taken experimental genre roles before, but, it is The Mandalorian actress Katy O’Brian who gets to shine as the emotional core of the violent romance. When she’s pumping iron to superhero levels, the real-life martial artist and former bodybuilder displays impressive duality in her character. Her emotions range from bone-crunching outbursts fit for her gargantuan physique to a dreamy-eyed naivety that reflects her fantasies of winning the titles she trains so hard for.

A gritty crime drama that doubles as a surreal body horror. While Love Lies Bleeding might seem more grounded in reality than Saint Maud, Rose Glass can’t shy away from the psychedelic horror that made her debut so memorable. The A24 crime drama has its fair share of horror influences with even a jump scare or two, courtesy of Ed Harris as Lou’s gaslighting, morally dubious father. A few close-ups of his wrinkly visage in shades of crimson even offer an unintentional hint of Vecna, the parasitic demon from Stranger Things. Even when Jack works out in the gym, her physical transformations seem to be tinged with a touch of bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno’s 80s’ Hulk TV series, some old-school B-movie camera tricks, or any of David Cronenberg’s body horror flicks (a major inspiration cited by Glass in multiple interviews). With such genre trappings, Love Lies Bleeding is a picture-perfect blend of subversive high-art and campy, midnight screening fun.

A third act that’s not for everyone. The horror influences tinged with psychedelic neon colors and Clint Massell’s dark sci-fi score give way to a shocking climax that serves as the film’s Marmite. The third act can be a real dealbreaker for it would either make audiences deem Glass a genius storyteller or a pretentious auteur.  Regardless of how one feels about the change of tone in the end, Rose Glass’s quest to craft pulpy award-worthy cinema is admirable. She is unabashedly self-indulgent and this is more than evident in the shocking ending.

If you can stomach some experimentation with a gruesome and riveting Thelma and Louise-like Western, Love Lies Bleeding will be your movie of this summer. And also this might go down as perhaps the best bodybuilding movie of all time. Love Lies Bleeding is a romantically wholesome, darkly funny, and narratively challenging dose of steroids and psychedelics.

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