Blood Beat (1983) Review

Blood Beat may not only be one of the most batshit insane Christmas movies out there, but it’s also probably one of the craziest horror films the 80s produced. And that’s saying a lot. Right from the start, it throws the viewer off guard as Cathy (Helen Benton) is suddenly sickened by the sight of the deer her bow hunter BF Gary (Terry Brown, Copycat, Dark Rider) brings home.

Later that day her children Dolly (Dana Day), her brother Ted (James Fitzgibbons, Producing the Hood), and his girlfriend, Sarah (Claudia Peyton) come back from college to spend Christmas. Cathy has the same reaction to Helen as she had to the deer. And it’s mutual. Sarah, for her part, has a weird vision and hears a baby crying when Ted shows her to the guest room. He tries to calm her down with a makeout session, but we see Cathy make a face like she has a headache and suddenly Sarah is shutting him down, saying it feels like his mother is in the room.

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I’m not sure if writer/director/composer Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos (La Grande Frime) actually wrote a script for Blood Beat before shooting started, or if he just made an outline and made the rest up as they went. Nothing is explained and everything is just tossed at the viewer who’s left to figure it all out, something that gets harder and harder to do as the film goes on.

Shortly after finding a dead body in the woods, Sarah makes another discovery, a set of samurai armour, complete with a katana in a trunk in the guest room. As she’s making her discovery, Cathy is having what looks like a seizure. It’s not long before the armour is walking around and hacking up what few locals there are in Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin. Yes, a ghostly samurai stalking the backwoods of America and carving people up for no apparent reason.

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Zaphiratos says in the interview that comes with Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray that he sees Blood Beat as more of an art film than a mere horror movie. If so, maybe he was going for some kind of surrealist/absurdist vibe. Because before the film is over, Sarah is having orgasms every time someone is killed and people are firing laser beams from their hands. That, the lasers, not the orgasms, combined with the glowing aura around the samurai’s sword and its Darth Vader-like heavy breathing make the climax, the film’s not Sarah’s, seem like something inspired by an Italian Star Wars knockoff.

There’s also a Poltergeist-style attack on the house, featuring exploding telephones and soft drink cans becoming lethal weapons. You can see the fishing line used to move the items in several shots, which just adds to the absurdity of the whole thing.

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Blood Beat was shot on location with a cast of non-professional actors, few of whom ever acted again. The cast did, however, include Peter Spelson who had the title role in The Psychotronic Man the movie that inspired the term “Psychotronic Film” as Uncle Pete which seems incredibly appropriate. The unfamiliar cast and off-the-grid locations give Blood Beat what little sense of reality it has. Overall, the sanest shot in Blood Beat’s last half hour is one of the cat peering out from its hiding spot.

Obviously, this kind of film isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. But, if you have a taste for this sort of weird, fever dream sort of filmmaking, Blood Beat has a lot of that to offer. There are even a few effective shots and a bit of nudity mixed in as added attractions. Don’t try to make sense of it, if it do you’ve taken too many edibles, just sit back and enjoy it.

Vinegar Syndrome released Blood Beat on a now-out-of-print Blu-ray, but the film is still available on Tubi and other Digital platforms.

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