Blood Cult (1985)
WRITER: Stuart Rosenthal and additional dialogue by James Vance
DIRECTOR: Christopher Lewis
STARRING: Julie Andelman as Tina
Charles Ellis as Ron
Josef Hardt as Doc White
James Vance as Joel
David Brent Stice as Deputy
QUICK CUT: When a local sheriff is gearing up for his big reelection campaign, the worst happens and a slasher begins picking off college co-eds in Oklahoma. What connection do these incidents have to an ancient order of witches, and will Sheriff Ron Wilbois find out before it's too late?
Sheriff Ron Wilbois - Our hero, our lead investigator. A genuinely nice guy, a gentle soul, and he almost feels too nice to be in law enforcement. I'm not quite sure how he got the job, since he seems to be pretty clueless half the time, but hey, personality counts for a lot.
Tina Wilbois - The sheriff's daughter, and works in the library at the local college where the killings are taking place. She does all her old man's research.
Joel - Tina's boyfriend, who looks way too old and way too creepy to be dating a college girl. But of course, if you're the creepiest, most suspicious guy in a horror movie, you can at least be sure you're not the killer.
THE GUTS: Blood Cult kicks off by handily telling us we're at Chi Omega Sorority at Central State College. We're told this, thanks to someone using their basic graphic text package to slap it up on the screen.
We start things off right by seeing a girl in a shower, conjuring images of Psycho. Which is a bad comparrison to make for this movie's sake, but it does set you up for what's coming. And it lets you know out of the gate, yes there will be breasts.
A black clad stranger with a meat cleaver badly sneaks into the sorority house. So badly does he sneak that the girl in the shower hears him fiddling with the door downstairs. Through closed doors. Over the running water.
I do rather like these scenes of the slasher stalking through the house being done from his POV. It's the oldest trick in the book for a horror movie, but it's a cliche for a reason; it works, and it looks good. At least there's no mask in the way. Although there is a weird filte that makes most of scene play out with a dark circle around the edges.
The killer finally shows up at the bathroom door just as the girl opens it, seeing him standing there. That has to be embarassing, to be fiddling with a doorknob, not in your stance, and caught off guard.
She wisely tries to close the door, but he uses his arm to block the door, swinging the meat cleaver at her screaming head. It's a good thing he picked the night everyone went out for pizza except for her, or he'd have a house full of college girls attacking him.
In a surprising move, she actually gets his arm out of the bathroom and closes the door, but he uses the cleaver to hack through what must be the cheapest, thinnest door ever. Jack Nicholson would be embarassed.
With nothing else between the girl and the killer, he makes quick work of her with the cleaver, splashing liberal amounts of blood everywhere.
He whacks her arm off, takes it with him, and leaves behind a gold star for good work, glued to her chest. Or maybe a gold coin. We get a shot of the bathroom, and the girl was somehow butchered outside the bathtub in such a way that all the blood went inside. Neat trick, that.
We are then treated to an entirely pointless text crawl telling us that in 1985, there was a string of murders that baffled even the experts. You know what would have been a better way to show us this? By showing it to us. Oh wait, you did. That was unnecessary.
It also tells us that this is the story of Sheriff Ron Wilbois trying to unravel the mystery. These are not things you need to tell us, movie. Star Wars had a universe to establish. Highlander had a concept to establish. These are necessary text crawls to create a universe. It should not be used to tell us there are murders and they are going to try and be solved. That's what the back of the box is for.
Later that Wednesday, at the Tri-Delta sorority house...wouldn't it be hilarious if the movie was nothing more than going from soririty house to sorority house and watching the murders, with no other characters?
As a soririty girl tries to sleep, we see someone in a rocking chair, and a glint from a meat cleaver. Another pretty decent shot. Keeping them half hidden, giving us just enough information to know who it is, but not sure when he'll strike...
He eventually gets bored and creeps over to the girl's bed, but she senses something is wrong and turns on a light. But before she can really do anything, he stabs her pillow repeatedly.
Since that doesn't actually do any good, she squirms away and rather than run, she stands and yells at him. The killer whacks her repeatedly with a severed head, knocking her to the ground with victim #2's head.
Crawling across the floor towards him and begging for her life seems counter intuitive to me, but he actually backs away. Maybe he thinks girls have cooties, and that's why he's doing it.
He drops the severed head next to the girl's body after knocking her out with it, which begs the question where that came from. If we presume he severed the girl's head before smacking around the other girl with it, why was he taking a load off in a chair?
He took the arm of the first girl, and I doubt this girl slept through the wholesale slaughter of her house, but either way, this guy has been busy. And if he didn't kill others in the house, where is everyone? Is he just the luckiest killer ever, the best planner, or are these the least populated sororities in America?
The next day, Inspector Narator shows up while Doctor Ray Bradbury looks over the crime scene. He pokes around a bit and heads to the campus library to see what his daughter knows about the gold coins being left behind.
She tells her dad that the coins are from a newish cult of witches that sprung up in response to the Salem witch trials, and that the cult likes to take body parts. The sheriff says the killer may have tried to take the head, but he didn't have time. Which makes no sense since we saw him put it down gently. If he'd been surprised and dropped it, that's one thing. And the head was completely severed, no longer needing to be removed. It's not like the head was trying to get away. No time for what? Wrapping?
We also learn that the cult would put together mannequins from human body parts as sacrifices, retribution for wrongs done to them by the people being killed. If that's not a lead, I don't know what is.
Little miss shoulderpad's boyfriend shows up just as the eerie music begins to play, and Wilbois's daughter says he helped her find the book. No, this isn't suspicious at all.
The sheriff visits the dean's office to reiterate the plot again, and get the usual speech about trying to wrap things up quickly so this can all be swept under the rug. They'll film Urban Legend here in ten years, I bet.
Dean William B. Davis tries to get more cops wandering the campus, saying the college is the biggest contributor to the sheriff's campaigns, so the school should get extra protection. I dunno, maybe the fact you have a serial killer is a better reason for increased police protection.
We move on to another sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, that Friday night. I love that already in my mind, these captions tell me "There's a murder coming, get comfy and enjoy!"
Victim #3 is taking the garbage out, and visibly nervous about it. I'd be apprehensive about taking out the trash too, after several other girls had been murdered. Heck, I'd wait 'til morning to get rid of the stuff.
The killer wastes no time and mistakes #3 for a tackling dummy, diving out of the trees on top of her, and hacking off a leg. At least he's to the point.
We see the sheriff looking over the reports, and the determination that the weapon is some kind of knife. Well yes, that's usually what you use to remove a body part, since it's easier than a hammer.
In the dean's office, the sheriff likened the killings to a scavenger hunt, and he tries to bring that angle up again. What, does he think some jocks are running around with a list, trying to see who can collect all the parts first? To top it off, he tries to blame it on Dungeons & Dragons, and don't even get me started there.
Many people repeatedly say, "There will not be another murder!" which always cracks me up in these movies. Because it's always preceded by another murder.
See that image? We sit on that for almost a whole minute to the sounds of chickens, barking, and someone calling for the dog, which we then hear yelp. It finally moves on from there to its severed head. That was weird.
We then go back to that wide shot for another whole minute as we hear an off camera argument about what happened to the dog. At least someone finally passes the camera. I was starting to think this was a still frame. Did the movie's budget just evaporate?
The movie then transitions from the dead dog's body to a frying burger, being served by a woman that sounds just like the one on the farm. IS SHE SERVING HER DOG??
We then spend way too much time as a girl buys her doggie bag lunch, which must be the movie getting back it's money, because it spends almost as much time on a can of Diet Coke as it did on the farmhouse. Any excuse to cut away to that can in a closeup, they take.
An asian cook then rushes out screaming, and the girl who was getting her lunch does the same. As she does so, she drops her tray and we see that there are some woman's digits in her salad. But no one had their hands cut up. And if there's a sacrifice, why are there body parts ending up in food? Why not just have her find the dog collar, since you almost alluded to that anyways, movie? Is this killer collecting body parts or not? I'm confused.
The cook drags the cashier to the trash bins and shows her another dead girl missing some scalp and some fingers. So, the killer took her hair, and decided to play mischief maker with her fingers? Ok, I guess?
We then move to a long scene with the librarian and her creepy boyfriend, with added creepy lines about him being mentally ill. Ok, they're just joking at his ill-timed humour, but still. The scene ultimately goes nowhere as they fight briefly, before making out.
Ahahaha, the sheriff is eating a salad when his deputy comes in to tell him about the new killing, and the fingers. That's a great scene.
The deputy finishes that up, then gets sent out to investigate the woods and farms for any loud, weird noises or disturbances. Then in a bad scene of editing and ADR, they use some unused footage of the deputy coming back in with his back to the camera the whole time, so they can insert some exposition about the farm we've already seen too much of. Either they forgot to film the scene, or someone realised the plot was unclear. Oops.
And then we're treated to almost two minutes of the sheriff driving out there. Nice scenery, at least?
The woman at the farm doesn't recognise the sheriff at first, but when she does, she says what a pleasure it is to see him. Most people don't find meeting a law enforcement officer arriving on their front door as a pleasure, but whatever floats your boat.
So, the only stuff she tells him about are the loud noises and strange lights in the woods, by what she thinks are poachers. It almost seems like she's going to overlook the dead dog Rover on this farm that we've overlooked before, but then she tells him.
While all this talking is going on, we see a shadowy figure watching from the barn. Even without the dog, how long could he really go unnoticed? And why doesn't he have a place of his own? If he does have his own place, how did he know to lurk out here right now? Why is he there?
You would think the dog was killed to get a matching head to the symbol on the coins, but it looks like he just wanted to stop the dog from finding him hiding out? That's a bit coincidental.
After that, Sheriff Daddy visits daughter shoulderpads to return the cult book to her at the library. While there, he asks who else has looked at the book, and the only one she knows of is her creepily suspicious boyfriend. Which instantly rules him out, in my book.
Of course, then Joel says he knows the area of the disturbances pretty well and would like to go out there with him. He's gone from regular creepy to too creepy to be the guy. This is trying to get my attention now.
And then when they meet for dinner at the diner, Joel doesn't show up as someone tries to drug the sheriff. Oh movie, you were so close, you almost had me.
Shoulderpads talks the sheriff into taking Joel with him, and while they're sitting in the car waiting for the fireworks, the sheriff naturally passes out. By the time he wakes back up, Joel is gone. Gasp, surprise.
Joel comes running over shouting that the sounds and lights have started, rousing the sheriff and dragging him from the car. Yeah, this is a subtle stakeout, all right.
They rush through the forest looking for anything, and the sheriff begins to stumble and wobble. He's still dizzy from the roofie he got slipped, and his date isn't really much help.
A noise is heard in the distance and Joel goes to investigate while Wilbois gets his shit together. Boy, if Joel dies out here, the sheriff's daughter is gonna be so pissed.
While the sheriff stumbles about and gets a mouse up his nose, we see the cult entering an old barn that's being heavily backlit for dramatic effect.
After the sheriff gets knocked out, we watch the cult hang out and chat, with heavily distorted voices. Because heaven forbid we actually could tell who anyone in this movie is by their voice.
They pull a sheet off the body parts laying on a stretcher, and we see a bunch of random parts. They serioiusly just took two fingers from someone? Was a hand too difficult? And they couldn't be bothered to put the pieces in the right order, and just slapped them on the stretcher in any old order. No sense of propriety, these cults.
Dogs start barking towards the sheriff as he wakes up, sensing he's there. Um, we don't stop making scent when we're unconcious, but whatever. This is the least silly silliness so far.
Wilbois instantly recognises the cult leader as Ray Bradbury, and even with the voice modulation, his thick accent made it pretty danged obvious.
Once his daughter rises up from under another sheet, it becomes pretty clear this is all a dream though, and likely not the real reveal. The fuzziness they've put around the edges of the screen don't help that assumption. Of course, half the movie has that blurry halo, so if they were going for a signal of a dream state, they failed by doing the rest of the movie that way too.
In a flash, the cult is gone, and Joel finds the sheriff by an old trash fire, and frankly I'm not sure what's going on. I'm pretty sure that was all a dream, but the movie isn't big on transitions. I sure hope it was all just fantasy, because I can't take any cult that follows a god named Caninus seriously.
The sheriff wakes up in the hospital, head bandaged and babbling, still thinking Ray Bradbury is the cult leader and his daughter sacrificed herself to Caninus. Despite standing right next to her father.
Time passes as Wilbois heals, and eventually he puts aside his delusions as being just that. Which is a good thing, since Ray Bradbury is still his doctor. That could get aaaawkward.
Most notably, the sheriff sees there have been no killings while he's been in the hospital, and he finds out the doctor breeds dobermans, which just makes him more suspicious of the doc once again.
After trying once more to get his daughter to come home, the sheriff leaves the hospital and stakes out another sorority. And it's the longest scene of a stakeout with nothing happening I've ever seen. Which is par for the course with this movie.
Finally, as the night wears on, and the sheriff stuffs his face from Arby's, the killer begins to lurk around the dorm. He finds Joel in Tina's bed, and gets ever closer, as the sheriff remains clueless in his car.
Joel wakes up just in time to see the cleaver, and the dog's head the killer is wearing. And I hope it's supposed to be a rubber mask, and not the dead dog's head the killer took earlier, because it looks way more like a cheap, rubbery face. But if it is the dog's head he's wearing? Ewww.
Something gets knocked over and broken, which rouses the suspicion of the sheriff. Outside. In his car. Across the street. And not a single person inside the dorm.
Joel struggles briefly to get the cleaver, but that fight doesn't last long, as the Bad Wolf clearly overpowers him and begins hacking away at his body. The sheriff busts down the door and yanks off the mask, revealing...gasp, surprise. His daughter. Who knew? His dream actually wasn't far off.
She babbles on that she's not the only one doing the killing, and they did it so he would be successful in his political bids. Yeah, his daughter being a murderer is sure gonna help things.
To be fair, I've heard worse plots. Check the backlog of movies.
Sheriff Wilbois chases after Tina as she runs away, and chases her straight into a back alley that doesn't look like any college campus I've ever seen.
Tina runs up a fire escape, the sheriff scolding her all the way up. "Your mother wouldn't approve of this!' is the best line I've heard trying to talk down a killer ever.
She breaks down crying, and just as everything seems like it's going all right, she jumps off the fire escape to her death. And that wraps everything up in a neat little bow!
Oh wait, it doesn't? There's still a lot of unanswered questions? Well guess what? You're right, and there's a sequel.
Video: This movie is infamous for its claim of being the first direct to video movie shot on video (Betamax, to be precise), rather than on film. That claim can likely be disputed, but this one probably opened the door wide. But either way, the video quality is about as good as you'd expect from people shooting home movies. Actually, for that limitation, the production values are pretty decent, but it is what it is, at the end of the day.
Audio: An ok stereo mix, but again, not great, given how the movie was made. It's especially notable in the awful sounding scene of the deputy's exposition.
Special Features: A nicely informative commentary by the director, which goes into the history of the movie, what they hoped to achieve by showing movies could be done on video for cheap, and some other insights. Almost worth a listen to, just on its own.
First Kill: After seven minutes of lurking around a sorority house in silence, the killer finally hacks up the girl in the shower.
Best Kill: I have to go with the first. We actually get to see stuff, and a nice severed limb. The rest happen off camera, or in the dark.
Best Line: From the deputy, "The killer walks right in, kills the young girl, takes part of her body, and leaves. Teasing us with a coin he leaves on each body. That's weird." Oh that isn't even the tip of the weird iceberg.
Blood Type - C: The body parts are pretty good and convincing for the time and budget, there's a little bit of blood, but overall the movie isn't that gruesome. I'm surprised this movie was as much of a big deal for its gore as it turned out to be.
Sex Appeal: A few breasts peek around, but nothing major.
Movie Rating: Gah, this movie is, pretty bad. The main plot actually has promise, and has been done better in other places. But the logic of it all is way too vague. There are plot holes aplenty, and the characters are just too ill-defined and bland to make me care about them. The video and audio are bad, the movie looks like it was poorly shot, but like I said, for an experiment to try and bring higher production values to a low budget movie, well it turned out ok. It's not Hollywood, but it's better than you'd expect. But at the end of the day, I give it two out of five severed fingers.
Entertainment Value: Ah, but it is cheap fun, isn't it? This movie is the great-grandfather of all things Triskaidekafiles. It paved the way for Full Moon, VCI, and so many other creators to make their bad, bloody, trashy movies. It pretty much began here, showing anyone could do it with a cheap camera and no budget. Seeing the kills is fun, even if there is dark, and the 80s fashions are hilarious. It's still pretty weak on the scale of things, but definitely worth your time to seek out and laugh at. Three out of five gold coins.