Yes indeed, blood is the basis for almost all moments of the macabre, from the puddle that pools under a maniac's victim to the throat-draining desire of Dr. Acula and his pals. No upstanding scary movie would be without it, and fans get frantic when organizations like the MPAA demand it be removed. Video games lather it on in pixel popping plenty and rock acts revel in its shock jock value. Yet blood can also be a bane, a concept that can effortlessly hobble as well as help your fright films. As stated before, not enough and aficionados cry foul. Too much, and you overwhelm the audience with a lack of arterial authenticity.
As part of their ongoing repacking of previously available titles, Troma has put together The Bloodspell Collection, a trio of tales all using the sanguine sorcery of heart fuel as the foundation for their fear. And in each case, the use of such vital vein vittles either aids (as in Bloodspell itself) or atrophies (as in the tired tenets of Drawing Blood) the plotline particulars. While it is true that stemma does make the world of wickedness go around, the Bloodspell Collection proves that it can also send your cinematic vision crashing down into the pits of paltriness.
Bloodspell (1988), a.k.a. The Boy from Hell
Bloodspell is the kind of movie that understands just how junky it is. Yet it also knows to keep on plugging away, hoping to win points, and audience hearts, by and for the effort. Though the result of all this exertion is more ridiculous than terrifying, there are still enough outlandish aspects of this movie to keep you thoroughly and totally entertained – even though you'll probably be embarrassed for admitting as much. Originally released as The Boy from Hell, Bloodspell takes the standard creepy kid coming of age ideal and mixes it with some of Carrie White's killer telekinesis to fashion a kind of hands-free slasher film. The first few minutes are rather dull, including the standard setup of Charlie as the crazy kid and Debbie as the equally loony light of his life. But once it's been established that Daniel is possessed by his demonic daddy, and that this new found father/son symbiosis has resulted in untold power to pick on his fellow houseguests, our teen dream lead lets loose with the psychic butt kicking. Suddenly, just like Frampton, Bloodspell comes alive.
Director Deryn Warren obviously takes her cues from the early 80s school of slaughter, as she (along with writer Gery Daly) find more and more clever ways of offing the scrappy school kids. A big fat bully gets glass to the face, a strangulating slice of pie, and an unseen beating before finally flambéing to death in a case of human fire starting. His accomplice, a jive talking black boy, gets "accidentally" tossed in a wood chipper (with satisfactorily chunky results). A doctor is tossed down the stairs by "invisible hands" and our damsel-in-way-too-much-distress Debbie, is compelled by Daniel's extrasensory pillow talk to hang herself with a bed sheet. Such a subversive element, the knowledge that anyone can and will die at any given moment in this movie, makes Bloodspell that much more of a gratuitous goof. Although the end pay off is rather pathetic (just a standard right vs. might fight), getting there is almost all the fun. Score: 3 out of 5
Alien Blood (1999):
Its first 20 minutes are amazing: moody, atmospheric and telling an ambiguous tale of individuals on the run in near silent splendor. The shot selection is astounding, the music is incredibly rich and the overall tone is something both epic and individual, like the preparations for something truly extraordinary to come. But the minute director Jon Sorensen introduces us to the household of horny vampires, all bets are off in Alien Blood. No matter how magnificent the finale is, returning to the kind of visual splendor and spectacle he specialized in at first, Sorensen's desire to out Anne Ms. Rice in the goofy Gothic ideal makes for one awkward sidetrack from what could have been a real winner of a yarn spinner. Even with the less than effective CGI shots of screaming extraterrestrials (obvious by today's strict standards) and the substandard pyrotechnics (things don't blow up so much as go "pop") our daring director was onto something when he kept the action outdoors and drenched in the beauty of his beloved United Kingdom.
But it's the very element that Troma is trading on here – the claret loving clan of oversexed blood (and other bodily fluid) suckers – that more or less derails the narrative. Such a shift makes the script (written by Sorensen as well) seem pieced together from other genre offerings. Indeed, you can see a combination of Neil Jordan's Interview with a Vampire with the entire ET/Xtro/ Mac and Me school of misplaced space travelers avoiding the human pursuit concept. Sorensen should have jettisoned the sex (no one here is attractive enough to be seen knocking boots) and the entire undead angle, and simply focused on a Man Who Fell to Earth type of alienated mother alien and child movie. Had it stayed within this framework (and contained more of the amazing sound and vision Sorensen was working with), Alien Blood would have been wonderful. As it stands, it's too schizophrenic to be completely successful. Score: 2.5 out of 5
Drawing Blood (1999), a.k.a. Serio Lapel's Drawing Blood
Drawing Blood is a pretty mediocre movie, the kind of 'thinks its cool' film that really doesn't understand the first thing about being inventive or coherent. Tossing its ideas at the lens in hopes that something semi-sentient will stick, but lacking even the arm strength to make sure such lobs are logically or logistically sound, the results of this random scene psychosis is neither fun or fresh. Director "Sergio Lapel" (actually, filmmaker Onur Tukel, which may explain the pseudonym) seems to be running through every trick he learned in his community college class on Fragmented Film Farting 101. This cavalcade of confusion uses such tired treatises as double exposure, frame dropping, slow and/or fast motion, and a strangulating soft focus that renders everything like its covered in Vaseline, to realize his vile vision. As he piles on the stunt shooting, as he makes his fight scenes stink with a retread Evil Dead ideal, he begs, borrows and steals from dozens of films that weren't that great to begin with. As with most pretenders to the horror throne, Lapel's rip-off referencing launches this Drawing into the underworld of unwatchable films.
Indeed, it is almost impossible to sit through Drawing Blood without reaching for the remote and getting your brain into an unracked mode. Lapel fails to properly set up his scenes, so we don't know who people are, what their connection is to each other, or why we should care what is happening. Kirk Wilson, as the hapless Edmund, seems stuck in five different films all at once, and doesn't quite know how to act in any of them. He shifts from dour to dumb, heroic to hokey all in the span of a single dialogue sequence, making his motivations as unsure as his humanness (it would have been nice to know if he too was a vampire at some point before the last 30 minutes of the movie, Serg). Diana, as played by Dawn Spinella, is one dimensional, arching between angry and aggressive, barely suggesting the seductive sexuality that got Edmund hooked in the first place.
The rest of the players are nameless victims or ancillary subplot devices, performers used to simply pad out the cinematic parameters of the narrative. It's sad when the best thing about a supposed horror/comedy is the casting of some feeble old coot (Larry Palatta is actually fairly funny as Edmund's eccentric Dad), but this describes Drawing Blood to a "T". It's a movie so stupid, so vastly non-entertaining that you have to mine your amusement in whatever miniscule doses you can uncover. Naturally, the pickings are pretty slim. Score: 1 out of 5.
What the three films that make up this fifth installment of the Troma Triple-B Header collection all have in common is a desire to twist the standard constraints of the particular horror formula they are messing with, in hopes of creating something new or novel. Bloodspell is taking the old slasher concept and injecting it with a Damien/Omen aspect to try and give an otherworldly presence to the precariousness. Alien Blood is mixing its heady horror cocktail with even more divergent dimensions, placing gratuitous Goth neckbiters along side homesick extraterrestrials to make a kind of crazy creature feature concoction. Even Drawing Blood is playing with the vampire genre, messing up the traditions, injecting a lot of useless humor and reaching way back into the exploitation archives for the old 'vein juice as artists medium' aspects of such classics as Bucket of Blood and Color Me Blood Red to form its folly.
But another common thread that each of these experiments carries is the idea of filmic failure. Alien Blood has such lofty ambitions, such stellar visual appeal, that you're sad when the narrative switches over into oversexed French farce tactics mode. Bloodspell keeps pushing the envelope, finding new ways to make gore both nasty and fun, so that when it abandons the blood letting toward the end for a standard 'good vs. evil' showdown, you wonder why the chainsaw sitting in the background isn't being incorporated into the battle. Drawing Blood does the worst job of retrofitting its facets into an understandable statement. As with any other film in this crazed collection, during Lapel's lunatic lament, you wonder why somebody would want to reinvent a genre they themselves have yet to perfect. Standard scares are indeed hard to come by. Horror films fail more often than they work. Getting to the heart of why the macabre mutates into tedium should be the first lesson for any student of the scary.
Instead, each director here thinks they've got the cornerstones of creepy down pat, and this may be why each movie they've made is uneven and underdeveloped. Very few of our genius fright forefathers can manage a double-edged sword of fear with other factors. When they do, it's usually wonderful. Sam Raimi has discovered how to make corpse carving funny, while George Romero has given the zombie a social conscious. Wes Craven can tie the basics of the macabre into almost any psychological or interpersonal problem area, and John Carpenter can tweak the terror and tension in almost any everyday circumstance or situation. What Deryn Warren, Jon Sorensen and Sergio Lapel need to learn is that there are reasons and rationales why people appreciate and pine for scary cinema. There are elements of release, escapism and personality wrapped up inside the desire to be frightened. Until you can discover how to do the "Boo" absolutely and utterly, you should avoid slathering on the silliness or the surrealism. While not a total compendium of crap, the Bloodspell Collection is a lot of decent ideas amateurishly developed and poorly portrayed.
Troma also tosses us a bone, giving us some leftover extras from the first DVD versions of Drawing Blood (just a few minutes of bloopers and deleted scenes) and Alien Blood (a trailer and a preview video reel). Sadly, nothing additional from Bloodspell is represented here, which is no real loss. The overall added content has minimal impact, acting like sloppy seconds scraped from the bottom of the basic bonus barrel. As for the promised Lunachicks video (for the song "Say What You Mean") advertised on the box, it is nowhere to be found on the disc. In keeping with the spirit of these uneven movies, the extras here are also slapdash and intermittently amusing.
It is interesting to note that Lapel, under his real name Onur Tukel, went on to make the far funnier and more inventive romantic romp Ding-a-ling-LESS, an independent lark about one man and his search for a schlong. Too bad Tukel didn't do his own probing and find some evidence of effectiveness when crafting his crappy vampire caper. While Deryn Warren gores up Bloodspell very nicely, and Jon Sorensen gets the visual flair necessary to add mood and tone to his film just right, Lapel/Tukel is lost. As a result, he condemns this DVD to the lend lease division of diversion. Troma is known for its Toxic treats, but this trio of titles is almost lethal.