Director: Fabrice A. Zaphiratos
Stars: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Admittedly I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to 80s slashers. That subgenre of horror is deep within my wheelhouse, and yet I must confess, I’d never heard of Blood Beat from 1983 until today. So with great happiness, and more than a little bit of trepidation, I put this new Blu-ray in from Vinegar Syndrome. Was it a long-lost hidden gem, or a turkey that deserved to be long lost? Well, grab your bow and arrow, your katana, your deer hunting permit, and let’s find out.
A family gathers in rural Wisconsin for Christmas, which is also deer hunting season in those parts. This family unit consists of a matriarch, her live-in boyfriend, her grown daughter, her grown son, and the son’s new girlfriend. Right off the bat the mother and the girlfriend get a weird, “don’t I know you?” vibe from each other. But whatever, the festivities go on. They include deer hunting, finding a stranger dead in the woods, finding a suit of samurai armor in a chest that disappears as mysteriously as it shows up, random psychic powers, and then a slasher killer dressed as a samurai and glowing blue starts killing people by sword and bow during various poltergeist-like attacks. Oh, and the murders only seem to happen when the new girlfriend has an orgasm either through sex or hands-free masturbation. Yes, you read all that correctly. Yeah, it’s safe to say this isn’t your typical 80s slasher flick.
Blood Beat is a very odd duck, with acting that is so-so at best and a plot that by the writer/director’s own admission doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The pacing is off too, as you wait a long time before any real hint of slasher goodness starts, and the kills, while not bad, are nothing special, either. But despite all that, this sort of falls into the so-bad-it’s-good camp, and I did find myself enjoying it for some good, goofy fun. Also, I wanted to see how much work Vinegar Syndrome put into the restoration of such an unknown film, so I tracked down a VHS copy to compare the two, and the result was amazing. The video is still formatted in full screen and has some pops, cracks, and flaws on the transfer simply because the only prints they could find were old, water damaged, and moldy. That said, it looks miles and miles better than the VHS, which was so dark at times you could not make out about half the movie. Here things are clear, the colors are bright, and you can actually see what’s going on in the poorly lit scenes. Big props have to be given to Vinegar Syndrome for their efforts.
Let’s get to the extras and goodies on this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome. There is an intro to the movie from the director, Fabrice A. Zaphiratos, and then Mr. Zaphiratos returns for a director’s commentary, and even though he doesn’t speak English, the commentary is subtitled. That is something I wish that more movies by foreign directors would do. And I feel that I must point out one bit from the director’s commentary: “It is true that the end of the film was not well written. We really used a lot of different drugs and wrote 4-5 different endings…We chose the one that was the most coherent.” Wow. Points for honesty, but now I really want to see those other endings. There is an interview with the director that runs 18 minutes, and an interview with the cinematographer Vladimir Van Maule that is also 18 minutes long. There is a short film called L.U.N.C.H. from writer/director William Zaphiratos, the son of this film’s director that is 14 minutes. There is the ever-present still gallery and then one neat thing: Blood Beat: The Silent Version that runs just under 30 minutes, removes all the dialog, and it arguably makes the movie better for it.
Blood Beat is not a “good” film, but it is an enjoyable one, as weird as it is. And this Blu-ray looks the best this film has probably ever looked and it has far more extras for a 1983 slasher that no one remembers than it should. So if you are a slasher collector, fan of 80s cinema, a maven of all things cheesy, or just have a thing for very weird movies, then this is the flick for you. So it’s a pass for the majority of horror fans, but for champions of the weird and the forgotten, consider it recommended.