Blood Beat (1983)
WRITER: Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos
DIRECTOR: Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos
STARRING: Helen Benton as Cathy
Terry Brown as Gary
Claudia Peyton as Sarah
James Fitzgibbons as Ted
Dana Day as Sarah
QUICK CUT: When Ted brings his girlfriend Sarah home to meet his parents for Christmas, things get weird when a Samurai ghost decides to crash the party.
Cathy - A housewife in name only, as she steadfastly refuses to marry Gary, and mother of their two kids. She's also a painter, and has an uncanny ability to see things she shouldn't see.
Gary - It's unclear and varying on whether or not he's the father of Ted and Dolly, but since they call him dad, I'm rolling with that. He's also a hunter, and a self-described 'good ol' boy'. Which actually doesn't suit him well to the typical presentation of him, at least until he has a sudden mood swing late into the movie.
Ted & Dolly - Cathy and Gary's kids, and there's not much to say about them. They barely have any lines, and don't do a whole lot. Dog gone!
Sarah - Ted's girlfriend, who feels like she SHOULD be the main character of this movie, but somewhere around the first third of the movie, she goes into her bedroom and never returns until the very end. But the Samurai ghost has an unusual interest in her, so there's that.
THE GUTS: From Blood Rage (Or whatEVer...) to Blood Beat. It's a bloody 2013 holiday season, and I guess it works well since we started off with a Bloody New Year! But anyways, I knew going into this movie that there would be pain. Little did I realise just how much, and how fast. Cheesy 80s synthpop on the soundtrack as the credits roll over an entirely unknown cast. On the upside, the title is at long last not dicking me around anymore, and it is what it is.
At least they're short credits, but the music continues into the movie itself, making me want to go back in time and take away everyone's home Casio keyboard to stop such travesties from being comitted on film.
But as someone continues to plink away over their preprogrammed beats, we watch as a guy slowly stalks through the woods, and I begin to dread I have accidentally put in Nail Gun Massacre again. Until I see his bow and arrow.
Our mighty hunter brings his dinner home, and his girlfriend Cathy doesn't seem too pleased. The movie tries to do some character stuff about them not being married, and Cathy not wanting to, after a bad time the first go around, and it's not terrible for what it is. But it adds this layer of confusion over their status that never quite clears up. And that's just confusion over character matters. These will become the least of my worries very shortly.
Cathy's kids arrive, and Ted has brought his own girlfriend along, so I guess we've gathered together most of our canon fodder for the film.
Ted introduces mom to Sarah, and the pair have a stare-off like they're about to have a gunfight at high noon. Is it just the usual motherly wariness of anyone trying to take her son away, or is it something more??
A clue: Something more.
The kids all go to check out the Christmas tree, and show Sarah around. While Ted fiddles with his old rifle, she takes an interest in Cathy's paintings.
Dolly raids the presents under the tree, and everyone is surprised to find one there for Sarah, since no one knew she was coming. Mom comes in the room and claims that mothers know everything. Is it just the usual woman's intuition, or is it something more??
Ted shows his Sarah to the guest room, and talks about the last time someone stayed there, and quickly disappeared one day. Oh, that's not ominous, not at all. Is it just a random occurance, or is it something more?? And somehow this leads to the pair start making out.
At least, until the walls start watching her, and the music gets creepy. Sarah seems to be able to hear it too, since she tries to make Ted stop, but he keeps going. Yay, he got her borderline assault for Christmas!
While all of this is going on, we keep flashing back to Cathy in her studio, who seems to be able to see what's going on. Is it just a mother hearing her kid getting too rowdy through paper thin walls, or is it something more??
While the MSA (Motherly Security Agency!) watches everything her son is doing, somehow, Dolly is outside with Gary, and announces that Red Baron is coming. Quick, someone get Snoopy!!
The best part of this announcement though, is watching the approaching vehicle, a large red Bronco type truck barreling down the road. If you've seen those nice, big, boxy trucks from the 80s, you know what I mean. Topped off by it hitting a bump in the road and getting some significant air. I know from personal experience, those vehicles do NOT fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Which makes seeing one take flight absolutely hilarious.
Gary piles up some wood in Dolly's arms, and she promptly drops every last log on the ground when the truck pulls up and the driver gets out, wanting a hug and to know where all the deer hunters is at.
Apparently the answer is, on horseback riding off into the woods, as Gary, the kids, and whomever was driving the truck go looking for more deer. Although, quite why Sarah is there, is a mystery to me. She's been a bit twitchy all day, and doesn't seem like the hunting type.
I guess since the alternative was staying with mommy stares-a-lot, it was really the only option she had. Cathy's probably still watching anyways.
My fears all bear out though, as the overly long hunting scene drags on for the sole purpose of having Sarah look at each and every person with increasing worry on her face as Bambi's mom comes into their sights.
After she cries out and scares away their prey, Sarah continues freaking out and runs away herself. Arguably, not a bad move since one of the many people next to her with guns and arrows may well hurt her.
Unfortunately, trying to run away from a family of hunters doesn't get Sarah very far, as they chase her through the woods. She gives them a better than average chase though, until she runs into random creepy woods dude with a missing stomach.
And damnit, aside from this guy, who technically stumbled into the movie dead, we are now twenty minutes deep and the only casualties so far is a deer.
What with a dead body falling into the plot, the police decide to show up and investigate. The hunters are sure they didn't shoot him, since they were firing elsewhere, and there's a little talk of a poacher, but otherwise the police shrug it off. And the plot kinda shrugs off the poacher, may it never be mentioned again.
They shrug it off so much, I have to laugh when the cop drives off, after his questioning and they rush off the dead body, he cheerily calls back, "Merry Christmas!" Oh yeah, that's appropriate.
Not surprisingly, Sarah is still freaking out in bed, and when Ted leaves, she asks him to take the paintings with him. Now, let me explain something; these paintings aren't really creepy. In fact, they could have done a lot more. All they really are, is splatters of paint and colour on canvas.
They're not even evil Rorschach tests. Just clouds of bright colours on contrasting backgrounds. There's a realm of horror that deals with the creepiness of mundane things, but there's often at least some unsettling component to them as well. Stephen King is a master of this sort of horror. Blood Beat is...not. So not.
For something that is clearly being set up as an important plot point, I feel like they missed a trick with such bland paintings. Now, watch all the art critics come after me for my art snobbery.
Anyways, there's something with a vague semblence to a plot wandering around when Ted goes downstairs to his mom's studio and they talk. She sighs about her feelings over Gary, and her worries about Sarah. How she's disturbed by her, and feels like she's seen her before. Is she just a mother concerned for her son, or is it something more??
But, damnit, movie, make up your mind. Is it the mom who is the creepy all-seeing Agamotto, or is it the new girl who is the strange, mysterious threat?? Stop switching decisions!
For the moment though, the movie seems set on having the mother drift back into the creepy pole position as the night wears on, and her hand starts to have a mind of its own and takes over her painting with a little psychography.
Or maybe we should still think it's Sarah, as she digs around in the guest room and finds a trunk with a samurai mask and sword. Of all things to bring into A) a horror movie. And B) a Christmas movie. And C) a Christmas horror movie!! Seriously, samurais?
Sarah pulls the sword out of its scabbard, and stupidly runs her hand along the blade. And surprise! She gets cut! Gee, whoda thunk you could cut yourself by touching a bladed edge??
She passes out from, I dunno, blood loss or something, and people come rushing from the sound. They find her on the floor, rambling about the mask, and sword, and the trunk, but the mystery deepens!
THERE IS NO TRUNK!
In true horror movie fashion, this all gets brushed aside as a nightmare, no matter how real Sarah may have thought it was. And this is how people get dead in these movies.
The plot takes a sharp swerve as Gary confronts Cathy, for no good reason. Sure, they've built up that he wants to get married, and she doesn't, but it seemed like an almost non-issue until this very moment when he flies off the handle and yells at her about being fed up. This is how you do character development wrong.
Oh, and in his yelling, Gary does manage to drop in a little tidbit about how she has visions. Just a complete throwaway line. This is how you do plot points completely wrong too.
While the family relaxes, Dolly asks where Uncle Pete is, and we immediately cut to said uncle out in the middle of nowhere getting jump cut into his own death. Finally.
Apparently the movie doesn't have enough people to kill off, because we jump to another farmhouse, and another family; a sweet, bickering, married couple. We watch them banter for a few minutes while the camera stalks them from the shadows, and Darth Vader watches them. It's not long before they're as dead as Pete.
That was...ultimately pointless, on the one hand. But on the other hand, some dead bodies to toss on the pile. So, needles padding to kill time, but with at least some sort of point to it. I guess? Also, terrible plot construction, since we're just introduced to them and they die, so who cares?
We are treated by two moments of unintentional hilarity back to back, though. One of them being that while all this is going on, and Darth is stalking his prey, Sarah is in bed writhing and moaning. Supposedly in terror as she witnesses these events in her dreams, but it sure sounds like they are instead giving her an orgasm.
Secondly, the lighting is wildly inconsistent and goes from a completely well lit kitchen one moment, to a completely darkened kitchen between cuts.
Chris's husband miraculously escapes when he's defenestrated from his own house, and drives off to get help at the nearest gas station. Let me tell you, as someone who lives in the middle of nowhere like these folk, there's a good chance that place is twenty miles away! But the killer is right on his heels and continues chasing him.
The movie continues its movie-making failures as it spends way too much time on this guy driving around. This is the classic 'stuff you don't NEED to see' sort of thing. And I could almost forgive it if it wasn't happening AT NIGHT so you can't see anything in the first place! So it's pointless AND dark, so there's not even compelling scenery. Just road lit by headlights!
It's honestly not THAT bad as it might sound, but the driving, mixed in with the rest of the chase, takes over five minutes. We are getting into serious rock climbing levels of padding here. And this is not a long movie. If the pay off was better and not just an off-camera death, and oh! There's his bloody face! I might forgive it, but all of it together just adds up to an overly long scene with a character we just met, on the back of a similar scene.
Oh, and he coincidentally ends up at Gary's place. Which is at least fortuitous to the plot. The only worthwhile things about these two minutes, besides the actual deaths, were watching Sarah and Cathy freaking out from their visions during the ordeal.
At least once that happens, things start happening. And I mean it! The fireplace bursts to life, things start shaking, doors start opening...it's like Toby decided to pay a visit since he didn't have a Paranormal Activity movie to be in this year!
Where was this scene ages ago? The movie sure could have used it. Since the Samurai ghost is linked to the armour and sword, why did it go walkies first and find the other guy? It could've been doing haunting stuff for the last ten minutes! If only the movie had focused on the characters it had already given us! But then it gets weirder!! Gary's hand randomly glows and makes noises! Did he just get chosen to be a Blue Lantern?!
Things are flying, things are glowing, this is crazy shit going on here. It is a huge step up for the plot. Everything in the cabinets is being flung at Gary, and surprisingly, its everything but the kitchen sink. You would think they'd actually throw that in too! Things look dire for Gary as he gets assaulted by everything that isn't nailed down, and then the nails too.
We find out shortly that Gary actually didn't die. Is this why we put in random family down the street, to up the body count? Because aside from that this ghost seems pretty ineffectual. Can't kill people in the house it came from, so it had to bugger off down the road to borrow a cup of murder.
The whole house is glowing! The orcs are coming in full force!! Everyone's trying to get into Sarah's room, but whatever magical forces are going on, are keeping them out. And samurai swords stabbing at them through the windows ain't helping.
Everything is going wacky, doors, windows, lights...this is a great scene of freaking out especially for an 80s flick with no budget, but again, it becomes too much. The movie has spent nearly 15 minutes now on panicked people panicking, and while yeah, it's action packed by this point and I'm all for this sort of thing, the gag does start to wear a little, y'know?
At least some of this is being broken up by having Cathy confront whatever is causing her house to spasm, telling the spirits to go away and leave her kids alone. Stops it from just being ten more minutes of yelling and running. Yes, it IS more yelling, but it's directed yelling, and shut up!
Uh...and then her hands start glowing. Okay, what the hell, movie? Just when I think this movie can't get any more bizarre and incomprehensible. Did the Starbrand come to visit? I'll give you this, you sure are WEIRD, Blood Beat.
The glowing hands actually seem to scare the thing off, and the family starts to recover. Cathy blurts out that 'he' would never take her away from the kids, or the kids away from her. This revelation starts to make Ted freak out and say "You don't mean...!" like a dozen times before they cut away. We don't really know WHAT she doesn't mean. Or why the Samurai doesn't want to seperate anyone.
Boy, this would be a good time to explain the plot, right? NOPE. Instead, let's put everyone to bed and stare at sleeping people for a few minutes. Your pacing sucks, Blood Beat. Suuuuucks.
Since Cathy went and gave him the murderous equivalent of blue balls, Darth heads back into the woods until he finds three random dudes around a campfire and makes stabby until they're dead.
Okay, I get that the movie went and gave the "he'd never take you away from me!" excuse, but this is really, really frustrating. A ghost, or spirit, or whatever manifests at point A. It clearly wants blood. It has plenty of blood right there. But the only people it will kill are whomever it can find, who knows how many miles away?
That's like having milk in your fridge, and going down the street to your friend's house just to drink his milk instead. And not because he has the good, whole milk that tastes better! Oh no! You and he have the exact same milk!!
And don't try and tell me this samurai ghost has honour! No, he just doesn't have brains or logic!
None of this is helped by Sarah and Ted having sex after a night of screaming and running and scares.
The next day, Dolly bursts into mom's studio to confront her, but then doesn't want to talk and tells her not to invade her mind. So, I guess mom's big secret isn't a secret to the kids. Maybe they shoulda acted like that an hour ago and clued the audience in.
Which just leads to another stare-off between characters. I somehow am given the sense they're talking about what the plot actually about inside their minds, and not telling me squat. Jerks.
Meanwhile, Gary's trying to dispose of the farmer's body, but his truck won't start. When next we see him, he's returning to his home on a horse. Did...did he just carry the body off into the woods...on horseback?? I'm not sure if that's insane, or the most bad-ass thing I've seen.
After mentally yelling at mom, Dolly heads off into the woods to find her brother, but instead, the samurai ghost finds her. So much for how he won't take them from Cathy, I guess.
The trio sit in the woods waiting to be hunted down, and eventually the samurai comes across them. Fortunately, Gary crams a hatchet into the samurai's stupid face and kills it. Seeing as how we still have ten minutes left, I am dubious.
Gary brings home the costume and shows it to Cathy, who insists that he burn it immediately. However, he feels the needs to bring it to the police first. Because trying to tell them a story about the empty costume he found killing people is gonna make a lick of sense.
Sarah stumbles around her room, which she hasn't come out of since she went in an hour ago, and finds a picture of a little girl that may or may not be her. It might be nice to be told that. She stares at it until it catches fire, and that's when Ted walks in.
The weirdness continues as Sarah telekinetically blasts her boyfriend back with more blue waves of energy. I swear, we are in the final minutes here, Blood Beat. You better start making sense.
After she tosses Ted around the room a bit, she finally leaves it for the first time in ages. Cathy wanders around the house and finds Sarah getting dressed in the samurai costume, and made up in white face paint.
Not to mention she's now speaking in a terribly silly synthesized voice, which may well be the final insult. With this movie's score of audio problems, it does not need 'unintelligible exposition' on top of everything else.
The movie starts flashing tons of stock footage at the screen, presumably from World War 2, since that would make sense for a Japanese spirit, but I don't know if they'd still have Samurais then. Cathy is delivering her own exposition, but hey! Let's drown THAT out, too! We haven't made a lick of sense so far, why let people figure shit out now??
What I can make out is that the samurai is an angry spirit that chose hell, chose to stay behind, to seek vengeance for terribly vague, undefined reasons. I barely care to try and get more sense than that.
The ghost keeps screaming about how it is impossible for Cathy to stop it with her power, but uh...it's worked pretty well so far, so why would it stop now? Is there a reason? Care to share with the rest of the class, Blood Beat? Why should I be amazed that exactly the same thing that has worked throughout the movie to stop the monster works again?
As if all this wasn't enough, the movie does the most hilarious over the top thing I have seen in a long time. Gary's suffering from headaches and comes rushing to his family's aid, and what kicks in on the soundtrack? CARMINA BURANA. Of all things. This is a desperate ploy to come off as serious and a big deal. Watch it fail.
Of course, Gary's headaches are strange, and seem to be connected to the samurai. Why? Who knows. His arrival seems to give the samurai strength. Why? Who knows! By the time Ted arrives, he finds Gary dead and his mom a withered husk! Why? WHO KNOWS!
Dolly shows up, and her and her brother start glowing. Their hands glow brighter and brighter as they glare down at the ghost, until he disappears in a puff of illogic. Well, what should I have expected? The movie hasn't made sense for 80 minutes, why start now, right?
Why did they start glowing? Why did the ghost stop? Why did it disappear because of their glares? I just went from who knows?? to WHO CARES?? This movie has given me precious little excuse to bother.
The ghost is finally defeated though, through whatever means the movie did it, and Ted and Dolly walk back off to their car to leave the house behind, leaving behind any hope of forthcoming explanations. They just...leave. Everyone's dead, let's head home, Merry freakin' Christmas!
And as a final insult, the credits are white text that play over a tree with blown out sky behind it. So even those responsible can't be identified. This movie won't give you ANYthing easily.
Video: Oi. This looks bad. It's a transfer from a VHS tape to a DVD-R, I am 99.994% certain of that. And it shows. The colours are dull as hell, the blacks are greys, and the contrast is utterly nonexistant. So much of the movie is just plain bland and grey. I can surprisingly make out what's happening most of the time, at least.
Audio: WHICH IS A GOOD THING BECAUSE THE AUDIO IS ABSOLUTE GARBAGE. Seriously, the audio on this DVD release is...almost pointless. I had to crank the volume up SO MUCH higher than I normally have it, and I *still* couldn't hear most of the dialogue, or sound, or ANYTHING. I could've turned it up louder, but any other nosies the computer made would've exploded my brain. And when you can hear it, it still feels muffled like it was recorded from a mic on the camera. When you NEED to hear it, they play stock footage explosions. There is nothing good about the sound on this disc. I might actually know what's going on if I could hear people talking. I slightly doubt that, but it may have helped a LITTLE bit.
Sound Bite: "I've done everything I can! But it's your paint, and your brushes, and your damn visions! I'm fed up!" Gary, dropping the most important story point in the most random way.
1 - Random guy in the woods stumbles into the plot pre-dead, at the 21 minute mark. I can't tell you how reluctant yet desperate I am to count him. Wait. We never did learn how or why he died!!
2 - Pete gets killed when the camera moves in for his closeup and stabs him in the neck, I think...
3 - Random farmer's wife, Chris gets stabbed in the gut while making orange juice. Yes, making. They arguably deserve it for that.
4 - Chris's husband bites it a few minutes later.
5, 6, and 7 - Three random campers get gutted because the samurai can't kill at its home.
8 - Gary gets killed by I think a knife thrown by the samurai.
9 - The samurai drains Cathy of life, I guess?
10 - The samurai dies, and because it possessed Sarah, she did too? I DON'T KNOW.
Best Corpse: I'll give this point to the random farmer whose face got slammed through Gary's kitchen door. Every other death was pretty lacklustre. If we even saw it.
Blood Type - D-: Not a complete waste of time, there's a little blood, but so very sparse. And there's no effects to save it.
Sex Appeal: Sarah gets just a little topless while having sex.
Movie Review: *throws his hands in the air* I've spent the last 4000 words going over how the plot makes no sense, NOT A SINGLE DAMNED THING IS EXPLAINED IN EVEN A PASSING MANNER, the pacing is garbage, the movie strays off to random plots elsewhere that don't do anything, nothing makes sense, it gets weirder and weirder, nothing makes sense, NOTHING MAKES SENSE!! I have serious suspicions that my JOKE about the ghost being Darth Vadery and the kid's dad may well have been me stumbling into answers more than the movie was actually giving me. And here is only so many times a person can write 'samurai ghost' before one stops being able to take it seriously, and it feels like one is writing a Scooby Doo script. What do you THINK I give this as a movie and a story?? One out of five katanas.
Entertainment Value: It looks bad, it sounds WORSE when you can even hear it, it makes no sense, and is one of THE single most strangest stories I have ever come across. It doesn't quite reach the WTFery of Silent Night Deadly Night 5, but just the fact that things are just SO damned weird, with samurai ghosts, in a Christmas horror movie, and then things spiral into oblivion of confusion... Seriously, if the audio was even just a LITTLE bit better, I would say this is a must see, simply because it is THAT weird, and I could use help figuring out WHAT THE HELL was going on. Even WITH the terrible audio, I'd like help with that! Pretending that the movie can be heard, I would seriously give this a five out of five splotchy paintings. It's a shame that the audio botches that so poorly.