Directed by: Fabrice Zaphiratos
Starring: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
As we are getting closer and closer, I have decided to concentrate the advent calendar countdown on some of the many Christmas themed slashers right up to the 25th. Here is the first title that I will feature and it is perhaps the least relevant, because aside from the odd festive mention, it’s not really very Christmassy at all. It just happens to take place during the festive period.
Now the supernatural and the basic stalk and slasher is not always a juxtaposition that pays off, but it’s something that’s been attempted many times. Just look at Uli Lommel’s The Bogeyman, the rancid Boarding House and John Carl Buechler’s mish-mashed Demonwarp for a taste of slash-happy shenanigans mixed with a slice of fantasy just for good measure. It’s alongside those aforementioned entries that Blood Beat comfortably finds it’s nesting place within the hack and slash cycle. Despite an otherworldly final third that makes Gandalf’s antics in Lord of the Rings look like a lazy Sunday afternoon in London, the overall emphasis of the plot sticks closely to the rules regulated by the forever touted kings of the category.
This is for sure a mangled animal and something that you will most likely never experience again. It’s regional American filmmaking (shot in Wisconsin) from a European director (France’s Fabrice Zaphiratos) and it was produced by one person from each country. The net result is as commonplace as a hot dog with frog’s legs for a topping.
Ted (James Fitz Gibbons), his girlfriend Sarah (Claudia Peyton) and his younger sister Dolly (Dana Day) head to their mother (Helen Benton)’s remote woodland retreat to spend the Christmas vacation with their family and friends. Upon arrival Sarah begins to feel unsettled by a strange psychic link that she shares with Ted’s mysterious mother. Later in the week, a family deer-hunting trip is ruined when Sarah stumbles across the mutilated corpse of a local wanderer. Soon after the body count begins to mount as a supernatural figure dressed in Japanese samurai garb begins hacking through the townsfolk with a katana. Before long the hulking killer begins closing in on the secluded family as they struggle to come to terms with the bizarre and inexplicable occurrences that have plagued their seasonal gathering…
From the start it’s only too easy to see how Blood Beat has been labelled amongst the multitude of slasher movies that were released during the heyday of the early eighties. Victims are butchered by an ominous shadow in the traditional steady-cam build up and director Fabrice Zaphiratos signals his knowledge of the genre by adding the eerie heavy breath that was made famous by John Carpenter in 1978. It’s only towards the conclusion that things take a wayward twist into the paranormal, as the killer rages a comical battle using extrasensory-perception instead of a carving knife or pickaxe. The highlight of the showdown is when the maniac confronts the final group of survivors in the secluded cabin. They each take turns to inflict psychic damage on one another whilst gurning like they’re suffering from a particularly nasty bowel complaint.
It’s a real shame that we don’t get to see that much of the bogeyman’s disguise as it is by far one of the best that I can remember in slasher cinema. The samurai is one of the most majestically elegant screen icons ever set to the silver screen and to see such a figure taking the place of the more traditional masked villain is a great achievement. The cast, although amateurish, move the plot along neatly and Blood Beat manages to keep the interest levels running high right up until the climax. An exceptional use of sound also helps to create an uneasy atmosphere and the director chooses wisely to add haunting orchestrated melodies to a few superbly edited set-pieces. It’s easy to ignore some of the overcooked cinematography, as it seems that the director was doing his best to keep the momentum running high throughout the runtime.
One criticism that can be levelled at Zaphiratos is that he throws a little too much of everything into the blender and what we’re left with is a lump sum that’s a little too uneven to digest. We’re never really given a straight resolution to exactly what a ghostly samurai warrior is doing terrorising an American woodland retreat and a little more clarification would have been greatly appreciated. Why he decided to break the slasher mould and opt for a climax owing more to the likes of Poltergeist is a mystery in itself. It also touches on a somewhat sexual tone as the final girl who shares some kind of link with the killer experiences orgasmic visions as he slaughters his prey. Try and imagine a murder scene intercut with a soft porn-like young chick giving her best Jenna Jameson impression and then tell me that it doesn’t seem a tad weird. You can also laugh at the Commodore 64-esque special effects and the strained faces of the ESP confrontation, but all in all this is still a mildly diverting slasher journey that’s perhaps a little unlucky to be so overlooked.
At times taut and suspenseful, almost always intriguing and bizarrely bemusing to boot, Blood Beat isn’t that bad if you can find yourself a copy. It’s strange but bizarrely alluring
Final Girl √