Monday, October 22, 2012

Blood Song (1982) dir. Alan. J. Levi

 a.k.a. Dream Slayer

Logline: A demented, flute-tooting man-child stalks a crippled girl with a magical eyeball because no one else wants to play with him.

Crime in the Past: As a child, Paul Foley (Frankie Avalon) witnesses his father murdering his mother and her lover before turning a gun on himself. In reaction to seeing this, young Foley pulls out his wooden flute and plays a shrill tune all the way to the looney bin.

Bodycount: 8 souls who couldn't face the music.

Themes/Moral Code: Quite possibly the least complex of them all: 1) People who are "not nice" die, so be nice. 2) Always be nice to your Dad (no matter how often her rags on your lowlife boyfriend), because he could receive an axe to the face at any moment and you may never have the chance to tell him that you think he's OK, if a bit old-fashioned. 3) Society should teach its adult-sized juveniles how to play well with others. 4) Be careful where you get your blood transfusions from?

Killer's Motivation: Paul Foley is an escaped mental patient with the mentality of a particularly sadistic Bad Seed-ish child (excepting, of course, that he's played by weathered former teen heartthrob Frankie Avalon, who starred in several of William "Nightmare Maker" Asher's '60s beach party films). He says things like, "you really hurt me," "I really like you," "I don't want to play anymore," and "peekaboo," and one has the feeling he means them to be charged with menace. Poor guy. His main motivation is an uncontrollable desire to kill anyone who fails to appreciate his wooden flute playing. (And few do-- I think I detected him playing Brahm's Lullaby, wretchedly). It's not a motivation that leaves us much to go on. His sole point of interest (leaving aside Avalon's masterclass in hamming) is that at one point he has consensual sex with an adult woman. Sure, he kills her soon after because she tells him to put his flute away, but otherwise this is almost unheard of in a slasher film. As per genre standards, male slasher villains are typically hulking representations of dysfunctional or conflicted male sexuality-- Foley not only seems to enjoy his sexcapade, but leaves his partner openly satisfied as well. The disturbing part comes immediately after, during their pillow talk: though she attempts to make it clear that this is a one night thing and that she'll soon be on her way, Foley starts imagining all the fun things they'll spend the next few weeks doing together. The death of his parents has obviously left him with some pretty extreme attachment and abandonment issues-- it's unfortunate that the film chooses to neglect developing these rather uncomfortable characteristics in favor of quips and camera mugging.

Final Girl: The final girl is Marion (Donna Wilkes). She wears a leg brace and walks with a limp because her drunk father got the both of them into a car accident one night when he was behind the wheel. (He then makes up for this injury by yelling at her constantly about her insistence upon seeing her cretin of a boyfriend). She wants to run away with her boyfriend once he finds work elsewhere, though she's still reluctant to sleep with him (despite his trying) and so maintains her virginal status. Her most interesting characteristic is that about every ten or so minutes the camera zooms in upon her cornea, which then makes the image go all solarized and transports us to a simultaneous vision of whatever murdering Foley is up to. It's a pretty direct rip of the central premise from the wonderful American giallo Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), but thrown down here with a creaky/delightful pseudo-scientific explanation slathered on top: see, after that maiming car crash, Marion was given a transfusion of blood, which happened to come from Foley, who still keeps up on his annual donations despite his insanity. The blood of a psychopath can give you telepathic visions. Oh, why not? It's the film's sole enjoyable conceit, so I'll take it.

The Good, the Bad, & the Cheese:  I can't find a trailer for this one, so you're just going to have to take my word for it: Blood Song is the least fun I've had all month. Yes, it is suitably preposterous and poorly made (these can be good things), but I generally appreciate a bit of thematic substance underlying the trashy leap onto the subgenre bandwagon. Blood Song doesn't have anything. (In comparison, Nail Gun Massacre (1985) is deep). If I were to be generous, I would say that it was striving to be a pure suspense vehicle, and so has no use for including narrative aspects as thoughtful as something like "substance," but it's a shoddy thriller too, so I can't even give it that much. What does it have working for it? It's certainly amusing to watch Frankie Avalon running around portraying an overgrown child and attempting to come off as legitimate threat. It also has a decent amount of competent and pleasantly goopy practical gore effects that add a certain disturbing, if still not yet scary, quality to some of Avalon's slashings. (I'm thinking here particularly of his attack on Marion's crotchety father with a butcher knife, which is both brutal in its intensity and unashamed to linger too long on the damage done). Regardless: without complexity or competency, it can only rely on its dull weirdness. A suitable metaphor for the film may be its climax, in which Avalon's killer seals his own (temporary) fate by driving a forklift into the ocean: it's clunky, cumbersome, and avoidable-- moreover, it takes a real nasty face-plant at the end.

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