Blood Call (1988)



You ever try to describe a dream to someone and realize mid-sentence that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense? I think that’s what this review of Blood Call (aka Bloodbath 23; Hong Kong: Xue Call ji) will be like. There are films that seemed like they were made up as the filmmakers went along and then edited in a blender, and there’s Blood Call. Hell with scenes having any connective tissue to the ones before or after them; on many, many occasions it seemed that there wasn’t even any through-line from line to line! Remember that MST3k when the kid was like “I’m not afraid if you wanna go on home!” (“Wait, those are two separate ideas!”)? That would actually be one of the more logical thoughts offered in this movie.

The plot, as best as I can figure it, concerns three sisters who are being stalked by at least two different guys. Every male character in the movie acts like a psychopath on more than one occasion, so it’s kind of hard to tell if some are killers or if they’re just jerks. We definitely see one murder, but the police are after a guy (not the one we see killing someone) right from the start, so I assume he was a serial killer? It doesn’t help that the guy we definitely know is a murderer is seen shooting at the guy that the police were chasing... Christ, I’m already lost and I thought this was the easy part. OK, remember the movie Sliver, how Berenger was a murderer but Baldwin was just a creep even though he acted like a murderer most of the time? Sort of like that, but with more dudes.

Anyway, everyone hates pagers. I don’t know why, but they do, and pagers factor into the story more than pretty much anything or anyone else as a result. It’s even the device used for the most overly complicated murder I’ve ever seen in a movie – while one sister sleeps, one of the jerks (not the one we saw kill one of the other sisters) breaks into her room. Rather than just stab her or whatever, he begins to concoct some sort of timed electrocution trap, where he will wrap wires around her and her pager, and then page her at 2 am, so when she reaches for it she’ll get electrocuted. But someone else pages her while he’s needlessly setting this up (and explaining it aloud to no one), so he gets electrocuted instead. John Kramer himself would be like “Seriously, why didn’t you just shoot her?”

There’s also another guy who inexplicably lives with a kid whose dad has hired the third sister to watch him while he takes a vacation with his gay lover (the kid draws pictures of this, by the way). I’m not entirely sure what his deal is, but he does have some of the best lines in the movie; when the girl and the kid leave, he looks all forlorn off into space, and then says “At least now I can wee with the door open.” But everyone gets in some truly baffling lines; after the girl comes back and they get into a scuffle, she asks him “Why do you always talk about guns and rape? Why don’t you ever say anything nice?” (the fact that it was she who mentioned rape, not him, makes this all the more of a delightfully nonsensical line).

And then there's a bunch of pointless slo-mo shots, odd translation errors (at one point we can see that they are saying something about a dirty old man in the Hong Kong subs, but there's nothing like that in the English translation), an apparent snuff film, more pager slamming (even secondary characters get in on that action).... I mean, there's just so much HUH? in this movie, they never really give you anything to latch onto, so its nearly impossible to describe in any meaningful way, let alone critique.

Now I must admit I dozed off twice, which didn’t help, but I hadn’t a clue what the hell was going on even before I first nodded off. Plus, the other 30 or so folks in the crowd (it was a depressingly sparse audience – I hope they play this again with a full house of bewildered folks) were just as confused, and they all stayed awake. Of all the Hong Kong oddities they’ve played at the New Bev on Grindhouse nights, this was the one that sparked the most post-movie discussion. And by discussion I mean a lot of “Wait, why did that guy do this?” “I have no idea.” type conversations, followed by me saying “Now I can wee with the door open” and laughing.

I mean, all of these movies have issues with logic and people doing things that simply make no sense whatsoever, but this one takes the crown and runs far with it; I don’t know if my brain could process something even more incoherent. It’s a shame that the movie is so obscure; in this day of Birdemic, The Room, Dangerous Men, etc, this one would eclipse them all. Hell, I’d even give it the edge over Disconnected, which had just as many “what?” moments but I could at least offer a reasonably accurate plot synopsis. But Grindhouse guru Brian Quinn could only find two brief “reviews” (one was just a sentence) online, and I could only find one of them myself. The IMDb page* is a wasteland (doesn’t even have “Pager” as a plot keyword!), and I couldn’t find a trailer or any clips on Youtube under any of its titles. It’s a good thing Quinn, Tall F’N Joe, Phil, Larry, and some other New Bev regulars were there or else I might start to wonder if I had indeed just dreamed the damn thing up. There is a VHS copy on Amazon, but it costs 190 bucks, which is about 40 more than I’m willing to pay to see it again (since it was such a small crowd, I contemplated seeing if we could get a vote going to see if we could just watch it again instead of the 2nd movie, Encounters of the Spooky Kind II, but I had to get home and edit anyway). If anyone ever spies a copy of it at an affordable price, by all means obtain it at once. I will give it a good, confused home.

What say you?

*Make that pageS; in keeping with the film's bizarre nature, there are two (equally unhelpful) IMDb pages for it, with different years (1988 and 1990) and directors (Tung Lo, Olie Nicole, though I have been told that they are definitely the same guy). But for this movie, I wouldn't want it any other way.


  1. Great review Brian. You made more sense of it than I could, and I stayed awake the whole time. Besides being delightfully incoherent, and insane, the movie was actually a great lesson in how not to edit a movie. The pager/attempted kill scene was rather brilliant as was the followup slo-mo head shaking scene by the girl's friend who checked the body and shook her head in slo-mo to indicate the stalker guy was dead...only to sponge bathe him and end up hooking up with him as he came to life and running off to Tokyo with him the next morning. Hunh????? I definitely would watch this again!

  2. I just like how the only way to try and make any sense of this movie is to have a pow wow with the people that saw it. Everybody holds a different piece of the puzzle. I don't know if I would recommend it for cult status, but it was fun to try and piece it back together.

    There's also a morbid scene where some dudes suffocate another dude with a plastic bag over the head while casually walking down a street at night with the suffocating dude's little son (maybe the kid that never wears pants) walking along oblivious to the whole thing.

    Also Bolo Yeung shows up with a blow torch, and there's an asian Tom Savini with a gun running around.

    And wtf the ex boyfriend stalker ends up ditching his stalking victim ex for her roommate or something, I think. I don't even know how that works.

  3. All I know is "That's the tool room. There's traps in it." You also forgot to mention that while our watches showed the movie ran only 90 minutes or so, I could swear the damn thing was AT LEAST 5 hours long. Oh, and the director also wrote the songs... "Remember You and I.... in paradise"


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