Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BLOOD BEAT (1983) Blu-ray review

Blood Beat (1983) d. Fabrice A. Zaphiratos (France/USA) (87 min)

A Christmas family gathering goes hilariously sideways in this Wisconsin-lensed supernatural thriller that assembles a hodgepodge of random horror elements, tosses them into a burlap sack, swings it around a few dozen times before hurling it over the neighbor’s fence with a note attached saying, “See what you can do with this.” For one-off writer/director Zaphiratos, said elements include psychic abilities, vengeful ghosts, tea sets on waterbeds, girlfriends who say “no” to nooky, deer-hunting parties complete with authentic field dressing, white leggings on healthy Midwestern farm girls, kitchen poltergeists, girlfriends who say “yes” to nooky at the most inappropriate times, more psychic abilities, and haunted samurai armor/swords.

It’s an inexplicable phenomenon among fright fans, the ability to appreciate and enjoy schlocky, low-budget, wrongheaded filmmaking, the type of cinema that would send most audiences scrambling for the exit or the remote control. Yet, for a certain breed of cinephile, this is a magical experience, as anticipated and welcomed as anything of “legitimate” quality, oftentimes more so. Perhaps because while competence passes the time, well-intentioned INcompetence is infinitely more memorable (for reasons both good and bad), and when I settle in to be transported for 90 minutes, I’m always hoping for something memorable.

As detailed above, Blood Beat offers any number of bizarre ingredients, though it’s unclear whether Zaphiratos had a plan or if he was just winging it as he went along (my money is on the latter). He clearly doesn’t know how to stage or create any kind of dramatic tension, as evidenced by numerous scenes where our resident psychic/artist matriarch Cathy (Helen Benton) blankly stares at her various family members while they scream, “Stop it! Get out of my mind!” Did Benton know she was supposed to change her facial expression?

On the other side of the fence, her nooky-minded son Ted (James Fitzgibbons) spends a fair amount of time chasing his crazytown lady love Sarah (Claudia Peyton, who obliges us with some gratuitous if ill-tempered nudity) around the joint, but he and his fresh-faced sister Dolly (Dana Day) spend an uncomfortably abundant amount of time getting their hands all over one another as well. (This family is CLOSE.) Meanwhile, Cathy’s deerslaying boyfriend Gary (Terry Brown) spends his time getting turned down for marriage proposals and dealing with bum automobiles, when dead neighbors aren’t showing up on his doorstep, that is.

To be fair, this isn’t Grade-A Turkey, as the first half consists of mucho head-scratching set-up, amusing in its own right if hardly thigh-slapping WTF material. But once food starts literally flying off the shelf and ghostly glowing blades start swinging and stabbing the locals, it’s “game on” in the best possible way.

Vinegar Syndrome, responsible for unearthing this little-known curiosity, pours with a heavy hand from the supplement tap, providing a full-length audio commentary track from Zaphiratos, as well as a 20-minute interview, neither of which provide a lot of answers but they do offer a peek into our creative’s non-sequitar mind, full of half-finished thoughts and random observations.

There’s also a sit-down with Chicago-based cinematographer Vladimir Van Maule, who discusses the challenges of shoestring-shooting up north with a “visionary” at the helm. There’s also the “um, okay” inclusion of a 30-minute version of the film, sans dialogue and with musical accompaniment by Nervous Curtain and Horror Remix, and the 15-minute “L.U.N.C.H.,” a short film from William Zaphiratos, Fabrice's son. A still gallery of behind-the-scenes photos rounds out the package.

Blood Beat is available now from Vinegar Syndrome on Blu-ray and can be ordered HERE:



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