Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blood Beat (1983) dir. Fabrice A. Zaphiratos

Logline: Ted (James Fitzgibbons) brings his new girlfriend, Sarah (Claudia Peyton), home for Christmas, but his psychic painter mother, Cathy (Helen Benton), has a weird feeling about her, so gives her the stink eye often. And Cathy is right to be dubious of her, because every time that Sarah masturbates a sword wielding samurai ghost chops up some country folk. And then they all get superpowers and fight-- The End.

Crime in the Past: A young girl is painting, cuts herself on samurai sword. World War II newsreel montage [?]. Somehow these things are related.

Bodycount: 9, because samurai swords are sharper than you'd think.

Themes/Moral Code: Okay so the big one here is the fact that there's a direct link established between expressions of sexuality and the ghost samurai's rampage. In fact, it seems that whenever Sarah's lady parts are stimulated the samurai's slashing intensifies. But there's also a weird correlation established between female sexual desire and all the killing. For instance, in an early scene Ted tries to get Sarah all worked up while they're making out on his bed, but Sarah's not very into it-- hence, no samurai slashings. Later, when she's by herself sleeping in bed, she seems to have an erotic dream that sends her into some passionate self-love and orgasm, which is intercut with scenes of the samurai doing his business. Even later, she initiates some furious sex with Ted, while the samurai goes slash-happy elsewhere. So, in summation: whenever your girlfriend is expressing her own sexuality, she is actually unleashing the spirit of a bloodthirsty samurai. We could take this a bit further and say that female sexuality is here rendered deadly to the impotent male-- after all, what does Sarah's discovery of her own sexual desire unleash but a hulking figure carrying a castrating phallic object who targets mostly plump, beer-swilling middle aged men? We could go there.

Killer's Motivation: It's a psychic ghost samurai that wants to do... something [?] to the family in retribution for... something [?] involving World War II. And Kabuki make-up? I'm taking a pass on this one.

Final Girl: I thought the final girl would be Sarah. She starts the movie out as a young girl who is sensitive to animals, has weird visions, and rebuffs her boyfriend's sexual advances. Of course, her status as the final girl was not to be-- her discovery of her sexuality dismantles her virginal status, and pretty soon after she summons the samurai with her masturbation she seems to become the samurai, acquiring Firestarter and Force-esque psychic powers in the process. She's the villain (I guess), and when Ted and his sister, Dolly (Dana Day), vanquish the samurai (I think), they probably end up killing Sarah too (I presume). So Dolly becomes the real final girl, but up until this point I've barely noticed her. It's unfortunate that poor Sarah couldn't be allowed to be both a human with human desires and our hero. That doesn't feel like too much to ask.

The Good, the Bad, & the Cheese:  Blood Beat is the weirdest film I've ever been blessed to gawk at, wide-eyed and drooling. A French director makes an American slasher in Wisconsin about a Japanese ghost samurai stalking a family with ambiguous glowy superpowers. What the heck am I supposed to make of all this? It begins a lot less peculiarly than it ends up: for the first twenty or so minutes you might mistake it for one of those grand, snail-paced, consciously artsy rural horror flicks from the 1970s, say Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) or Poor Pretty Eddie (1975). But soon enough Sarah is discovering a samurai helmet under her bed and Cathy is painting with possessed hands. Eventually everyone in the family acquires psychic powers and squares off to the tune of "O, Fortuna." The bizarre psychic powers angle dominates the last half of the film, and it's both disconcerting and amusing to find its concluding domestic-disturbance-by-way-of-The Manitou (1978) showdown so large in scope and ambition but financed through whatever change the filmmakers found lying in an empty coffee can (these psychic powers are represented through painted on special effects that look a bit like someone took an electric blue highlighter to the negative). It's sort of a marvel-- and it's impossible to imagine what kind of film everyone on set thought they were making. Producing greater sadness than I can ever possibly convey to you, a quick search informs me that director Fabrice A. Zaphiratos never made another film (though even his name is a piece of art). If you decide to track this oddity down, I can assure you that at some point in your viewing you'll recall that this is ostensibly a holiday film and your head will then promptly explode. I watched it at about two in the morning after many hours of imbibing, and I would not recommend any other way. Before I fall asleep tonight, I hope to find visions of samurai armor resting menacingly beside my bed-- that's the only way I can be sure Blood Beat truly exists.

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