Blood Beat (1983)

MARCH 29, 2018


A couple months ago, a friend of mine who had just installed a home theater with 4K and 7.1 and all that jazz had a few of us over to marvel at it, but this friend isn't exactly a blockbuster kinda guy, i.e. the movies you'd want to demo a high-end home theater with. I brought a couple of my 4K discs, but what we ended up watching was Blood Beat, a full frame, probably mono film that had been recently released on standard Blu-ray. I mean it probably never looked or sounded better in its nearly 35 year old life, but I can't say I was blown away by the home theater's capabilities (though he did relent and let the rest of us watch a few minutes of Fast and Furious 8, and then I could confirm that I really need to have a proper home theater someday), making it a peculiar choice to show the system off. So I just focused on the movie itself (a novel idea, eh?), but alas I was tired before it even started so I passed out halfway through and when I woke up I had no idea what was going on, vowing to watch the rest later that week.

Well two or three months later, "later that week" is finally here! Obviously I just rewatched the movie from the beginning, because my vague recollections were of no use - "Hunters, a samurai, and I think a painting" was not enough to write a review or even find where I left off. But if you've seen Blood Beat you know that I could watch this movie a thousand times and still not make much sense out of it, so I guess it didn't really matter in the end. For those uninitiated, the film focuses on Gary, a standard Wisconsin man (read: a hunter) who is dating a woman that would rather sit inside and paint all day. Her grown children are coming to visit for Christmas, and when they arrive she immediately gets weird vibes from her son's girlfriend Sarah, and the feeling is mutual. This puts her in a rather antisocial mood, so the others all instantly go hunting, at which point the horror stuff starts happening.

And by horror stuff I'm sure you know what I mean: the ghost of a Samurai that is bathed in blue light and makes sounds that the subtitles refer to as "Mystical Boinging". I mean the movie is actually kind of a slasher in general terms - the samurai ghost thing starts offing people one by one with his sword, but it's all so damn bizarre that it never really gives that slasher vibe. For starters, we don't really see the samurai until the last 20 minutes, so until then it's more of a "presence" than a flesh and blood stalker, and either because of the film's low budget or the director's incompetence (both?) the kill scenes are hardly anything one could refer to as a highlight, which is kind of the whole deal with slashers (especially by 1983). And in one of the film's many unexplained elements, Sarah's orgasms seem to be linked to the killer, so if she's flicking the bean or riding her boyfriend, the kill scenes are intercut with her doing that, making them even harder to follow. I can't even tell if her sexual energy is giving the samurai some life, or if she's psychically turned on by his killing spree. Either way they're having fun doing their thing, I guess.

It occurred to me during the film how many of these "regional" productions are totally insane, and I have to wonder if it's intentional or just an unfortunate side effect of people making a film when they don't really know what they're doing (it's a good a time as any to note that the writer/director of this film never made another, and didn't realize the film was full-frame until he was halfway through shooting). I can tell you from experience that ideas that make perfect sense to you don't translate to the screen and can leave others confused, so I have to wonder if movies like this, or Things, or Disconnected, or any of the other random ones I've found over the years were intentionally vague or forced to be that way because of how they were made. I mean there's gotta be some train of thought that puts the ghost of a samurai in the middle of the Wisconsin woods, right? Unless they were just using the ol' idea balls in the manatee tank (Google it), I have to assume there was a scene explaining it that got cut due to damaged film, or maybe they ran out of time/money and never got to shoot it in the first place.

Anyway, the movie has JUST enough of that sort of inept insanity to make it worth a look. The Samurai talks in a weird computer voice, there's an out of nowhere argument about juice between two equally out of nowhere characters, and the "Samurai vision" and other random effects are almost impressive when you consider when/how the movie was made. But those moments are often separated by long stretches of people just repeating their banal dialogue, long pauses, walking around, etc. so it's fairly dull more often than not. There's a hunting expedition that goes on forever, and I think we spend more time watching two of the characters play Monopoly than we spend watching the samurai in all his/her glory. Plus the disconnect renders a lot of it less fun than it should be - sure, it's awesome when the kitchen goes haywire and we get cans of Tab flying around, but since it's so unrelated to everything else (and barely mentioned after) it doesn't generate that kind of kitchen sink insanity that Evil Dead or Hausu ramps up throughout their respective runtimes. It also ends on some of its most confusing notes (a major demise is suggested while we look at a static shot of a door for ten seconds) and the surviving characters calmly walk out of the house while putting on their coats as if they were going to run an errand instead of escaping a nightmare scenario that left some of their loved ones dead.

I suspect it'd be more fun with a midnight crowd, perhaps during one of those all night festivals where your sleep deprived brain has you thinking you're hallucinating some of this stuff anyway, and the baffled reactions of your fellow moviegoers can generate enough energy to smooth over its rough patches. If you've never seen this sort of thing before, I guess it's a good place to start before you get into the really insane likes of Don't Go In The Woods or MST3k fodder like Manos. But as I've had more than just a taste of these things, I dunno, this one didn't have that je ne sais quoi that'd have me excitedly recommending it to like-minded fans unless it was on the big screen. It was just OK, and that's not the reaction I'd expect from a movie with a synopsis that included the phrase "possessed by the spirit of a Japanese samurai warrior". I actually preferred it when it was just focusing on its poorly acted characters yelling at each other - if it focused entirely on that juice couple, this would be a much more excited review. Oh well.

What say you?


  1. I don't know if this movie has any sort of cult following, but if it does, I'm definitely one of its members. Even with the dull spots, it's just so goddamn weird that I can't help being captivated by it.

    Zaphiratos admitting that he was high when he came up with it is one of the least surprising BTS stories I've ever heard.

  2. This may sound crazy, but this film is about Pops and Moms who reached a certain age, and who, sometimes, cannot coexist peacefully. This is not a horror film, it's a family drama.


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