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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter (Blu-ray)
Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter (Blu-ray)
Music Video Distributors // Unrated // October 28, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 15, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The power of Christ impales you!

So, there's
Jesus y El Santo
a moment about halfway through Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter where I screamed -- I mean, screamed -- "SANTO!" at my TV. I'm not so much the type to bark out the names of luchadores enmascarados at consumer electronics devices either, but the sight of a beefy Mexican wrestler in a Burlington Coat Factory sports jacket hopping out of a plane and throwing his arm around our Lord and Savior...? That was it. That's when Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter bounded over that line from a really great Canadian campfest to pure, uncut genius.

The plot! Lesbian vampires are enough of a headache at night, but a bunch of these sapphic bloodsuckers have been surgically altered to skulk around the city when it's bright and sunny out too. They've been scarfing down so many parishioners that the pews at the local churches have been kinda barren lately, so who do the priests turn to for help? Who else? Jesus Christ (Phil Caracas), now with kung-fu action grip!

So...um, trying to sum up Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter... For starters, a big chunk of the movie is like one of those batshit crazy flicks that'd make the rounds on Kung-Fu Theater every Sunday, only...y'know, starring the son of God and a gaggle of lesbian vamps. There's a musical number Jesus belts out while healing the crippled as dancers in neon spandex leap around the screen. Jesus fashion show! Jesus versus a dirt biker. Jesus versus intestinunchucks. Jesus and his adorable, ass-kicking sidekick Mary Magnum (Maria Moulton) slinking through air vents John McClane-style. A beatdown where something like forty-five atheists keep gushing out of a clown-car Jeep to square off against a resurrected B.M.F. they wanna make sure doesn't exist. Hepcat jive! Chatty desserts! Fuckin' Santo! Vamps knocked off by everything from Jesus-beer-spit to being skewered on a couple of drumsticks! I mean, there's one point where an atheist tries to roundhouse Jesus, he grabs her leg, slips off her shoe, and konks her over the head with it.

I kinda want to rattle
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
off every gag in the movie to try and show just how ingenious Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter is, but I've probably given away way too much already. I mean, its sense of humor is stupid, yeah, but it's that flavor of stupid that takes a bunch of really bright, really clever people to pull off. This is the sort of movie Troma wished they could've made back in their prime. Shot on dingy 16mm with the mighty Bolex -- the camera of choice for no-budget auteurs, and I speak from...well, second-hand experience! -- Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter makes its low-rent charm work in its favor. The grainy photography gives it an almost timeless look, I dug those old school titles (are those opticals?) instead of something hammered out in a computer, the clunky looping of the dialogue just makes it look that much more like a vintage kung-fu flick, and the editing where every shot seems to start a second or two before it really should...well, I'll go along with it anyway. Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter wouldn't be nearly as fun if it were more polished, although I've gotta say that for a movie with such a lean budget, it's really ambitious. It doesn't stick to the same couple of locations the way a lot of hyperindie flicks do, and there's a half-battalion of vampires, shit-kicking atheists, and assorted extras scattered around in here. I don't know what kind of budget director Lee Demarbre had to play with, but he makes Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter look like a much bigger movie than I'm sure it really was.

It's probably also worth a mention that Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter really doesn't ever mock religion, and it's not that blasphemous. It's all in good fun, and it squeezes out some pretty solid gags by giving the Bible a nod ("I'm everywhere!"; 'sfunny in context...pinky-swear).

It kinda goes without saying that a movie called Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter isn't gonna be for everyone. It's pretty rough around the edges, its spastic sense of humor isn't exactly aimed at those poor bastards who can quote American Pie or The Waterboy chapter and verse, and...whatever. I had a hell of a good time with Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, it's my review, and I say it's Recommended anyway.

Jesus Christ: Vampire
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
was borderline-unwatchable on DVD, but MVD shelled out for a shiny new high-def transfer for this Blu-ray disc. It actually looks pretty great, although you kinda have to grade on a curve when you're talkin' about a flick shot on the cheap like this with a spring-wound 16mm camera. Yeah, yeah...the 1.78:1 image is buzzing with film grain, falls out of focus every once in a while, and is softer than pretty much anything else you'll shove in your Blu-ray deck. Its colors are usually pretty dingy looking, the negative used for this transfer is kinda speckled and worn, and the far, far left and right sides of the frame sometimes aren't smooth and pulse a bit.

Okay, and the smart money says you're wondering where that "it actually looks pretty great..." a few sentences back came from. Well...that's 'cause it does. The image is extremely grainy, sure, but the grain structure is really tight, and the low-ish bitrate VC-1 encode never chokes on it. Even with as soft as the photography can be, there's a surprising amount of clarity and definition in here. Not every shot screams "I'm in high-def; ask me how!", but I was actually wowed quite a few times by how crisp and well-defined the image is. The screenshots scattered around this review really don't do it justice. Its colors don't exactly pop, but they pack much more of a wallop than the muddy, brown DVD from a few years back. The speckling and wear aren't heavy enough to really distract either.

So...yeah. There's a pretty common misperception that the only movies that really have anything to gain from high-def are glossy, $120 million CGI wankfests, but you don't need some twenty zillion dollar Panavision Genesis camera to look great in HD. 16mm still has a heckuva lot of resolution, and Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter is proof-positive that even no-budget schlock-comedies can still get a pretty hefty boost on Blu-ray. It's not the poster child for the super-indie set, no -- I mean, it looks like it was shot on the cheap, but that's kind of part of its charm. If you look past the size of those walkie-talkie-size cellphones and that tanklike laptop running Internet Explorer, it looks almost timeless: you could've told me it had been shot in 1989 or 2004, and I probably would've gone along with it. Okay, and now I'm starting to ramble, so I'll just say that for what it is, Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter looks pretty damn great in high-def and leave it at that.

Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter's
[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]
soundtrack didn't get that same sort of polish, but that's okay. This Dolby Digital mono track (192Kbps) kinda sounds like it's sqwawking from a drive-in speaker, and that's what a campfest like this really needs. Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter was shot wild -- no sound was actually being recorded while camera were rolling -- and everything else was tossed in a couple of years later. The dialogue doesn't really match up with the lip movements, not that that's a bad thing for a movie taking so many cues from badly-dubbed chop-socky flicks, and the recording overall is pretty flat and muffled. The best thing about the audio is the score of bleating synths and vocoders, and the "Any Way You Want It" rock number that closes out the movie is genius. There are a couple of light pops, but the whole thing is still pretty listenable. Keep your expectations really low, tho'.

There aren't any subtitle streams or other soundtracks this time around.

The flipside of the case lists an audio commentary with a big stack of the cast and crew, but that didn't actually make it onto the disc. Whoops.

"Remembering Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter" (14 min.) reunites a bunch of the cast-'n-crew at a bowling alley in Ottawa. They field questions about their favorite memories from the shoot, how their lives have changed over the past decade or so, what's next on the platter for Odessa Filmworks, and what friendly little messages they'd like to lob out to the rest of the crew who've left Ottawa behind in their rear view mirrors. Some of the highlights include art from a fingers-crossed sequel set in the shit in Vietnam, lesbian stunt lips, how quickly the concept for the movie was slapped together, and the movie's high definition spit and polish on Blu-ray.

A pretty extensive photo gallery belts out a big stack of production stills along with some promotional art for this and other Odessa Filmworks titles. The navigation is kind of clunky -- the selection defaults to 'Main Menu' instead of 'Next', making cycling through 'em all a bit of a hassle -- and some of the tiny text in the captions can be pretty tough to read. Last up is a rough-lookin' minute long trailer.

The Final Word
Good Lord! Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter lives up to its title, and...yeah, that's pretty much the review right there. Recommended.

More Screengrabs Just for the Hell of It
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