Direct-to-Video trendsetter Blood Cult is far from a classic, but something that in this day and age can be recognized as a benchmark in SOV cinema.
All through the past, original trends have a way of coming back to find a new audience. The eight track, record players, even cassettes are making a comeback now. I am a huge advocate for physical media, but even throwbacks need to stay gone for a reason.
That brings me to the recent craze of VHS releases and trashy shot on video (aka SOV) releases. These seem to be coming back with rampant fervor and honestly I just don’t get it.
But maybe that’s where I’m wrong.
Bleeding Skull and other distributors are finding an audience of film fans that seem to gravitate towards this antiquated format and the demand is rising. Almost all of these films never saw a screen, they were created to be distributed just on home video and even then saw few viewers. Which brings me to last night’s film Blood Cult.
Released in 1985 and touted as the first direct to video release, it would go on to spawn an entire genre of film that flooded the video stores until their eventual demise. The copy of Blood Cult that I watched last night was a VHS transfer to DVD and maybe there is where it lost some of its charm. I was watching this piece of shit film originally shot on VHS transferred to a somewhat superior format and then played on a high end digital media system. So maybe there is where I’m at a disadvantage. Maybe if I had the VHS copy and an old Toshiba box tv some of the charm would have bled through.
Blood Cult is a slasher film that never quite gets off the ground. It plays more like a t.v. cop drama with a little gore thrown in the mix for legitimacy. The story revolves around a college campus being terrorized by a stalker who is killing young women and taking body parts. But then they leave a coin stamped with a mean looking doggy as their calling card. The town’s senior citizen sheriff Wilbois is running for state senate and needs to solve this case to give his election the boost that it needs and keep the college funding his campaign.
Utilizing his librarian daughter for clues, she stumbles upon a book describing a cult who are represented by the same canine icon stamped on the coins left behind each of the victims. Now with cults in the crosshairs, Sheriff Wilbois is on the case with the help of his daughter and her super weird boyfriend who is all eyebrows and douche.
The second act of the movie is mainly people getting murdered and the Sheriff running in circles with nothing to go on, Socratically addressing his bumbling officers to see if they have any leads or any idea of what’s going on. All through this act having the feeling that the boyfriend is the one behind these crimes. When a hillbilly family reports lights and noises on their land, the Sheriff decides to stake the place out and try to get some answers. I don’t know what he thinks he’s going to do, he’s old as balls and can barely run to save his own life – literally.
With the help of his daughter’s boyfriend, he tromps through the woods blindly searching for the noises and light that could lead him to a cult’s ritual. This is where the movie finally gets somewhere and the sloggy hour that had come before it can start to be forgotten. As I always do, I won’t give away the remainder of the third act because if you’re reading this far, then you owe it to yourself to check the film out – simply to justify my bitching about it.
I stated earlier that this film is a piece of shit – and it is in some instances, but what it truly is is a piece of video history. This is the part when the remnants of the exploitation genre were able to get back on the saddle and make films with little-to-no substance, but a bit of charm. Distribution companies began churning this material out at an alarming rate for maximum profit. There were only two lenses used in Blood Cult, standard and fish eye. Flashlights looked like they were used to illuminate a majority of the night time scenes. Thus, this movie was probably made for around $5K – I couldn’t imagine it being made for any more than that, even by 1985 standards, and even then I’m likely giving it too much credit.
Blood Cult ushered in a new genre of film, one that is gaining more and more traction as time goes on and I guess that I better get used to it. Just like cassettes, records and sixteen millimeter, VHS and SOV has finally come back to the forefront and will likely be here for awhile.