Monday, August 19, 2019

“You’ve Seen All Kinds of Dead Deer Before” - Bloodbeat (1981) - Film #148

As everyone knows, Wisconsin has always been a major center of film production that has produced a high proportion of classic films--and that is true just based on the output of Bill Rebane alone. Let us now look at the horror film Bloodbeat (1981) aka Blood Beat, directed by Fabrice Zaphiratos.

Oddly, even some of your universe's critics are immune to the charms of rural Wisconsin. Reviewer lthseldy1 writes, "I found this movie to be one of the most boring slow paced early 80's movies that I have ever seen." Reviewer BA_Harrison writes, "I haven't the faintest idea what writer/director Fabrice A. Zaphiratos was thinking when he made this oddball horror-very little about the film makes sense-and the result is definitely one of the strangest films of the '80s." And reviewer ThyDavideth writes, "The filmmakers should of laid off the crack, heroine, meth, angel dust, acid, horse tranquilizers and so forth while making this movie."

Read on for the truth about Bloodbeat, which amply maintains the quality level for which Wisconsin filmmaking is justly renowned...

In a wintry forest in Wisconsin, a middle-aged hunter dressed in camouflage stalks his prey with a bow and arrows—and a Sony Walkman. The camera lovingly traces the shaft of the arrow, taut against the bowstring, as the hunter prepares to fire. When he does, the filmmakers cut to a pickup truck driving to a house. After such a suspenseful cut, the hunter, Gary, arrives home jumps up and down before goofily yelling to his girlfriend, “All right, honey, I got one! It’s a big one too!” He has killed a deer.

His poncho-wearing girlfriend Cathy is disturbed by the sight of the deer bleeding in the truck bed. Gary consoles her: “Honey, you’ve seen all kinds of dead deer before.”

The filmmakers introduce a source of tension in the relationship: Gary wants to marry Cathy, but she does not want to get married again.

As Gary graphically disembowels the deer, Cathy’s adult kids Ted and Dolly arrive for a Christmas visit with Ted’s girlfriend Sarah. Sarah is disturbed by the bloody deer and the blood on Gary’s hands. Sarah is also disturbed by Cathy as well as Cathy’s artwork, abstract etched patterns. In fact, Sarah is disturbed by almost everything at the house, as she has psychic visions that include the sound of a crying baby.

The psychic abilities go both ways between Sarah and Cathy, however, as the filmmakers intercut Ted and Sarah making love upstairs while Cathy paints a painting downstairs, well aware of what her son is doing in his room. Sarah tells Ted she is uncomfortable, but he continues making love to her.

The next day, the family is visited by an uncle who calls himself “Red Baron,” a man who drives a red truck at ridiculous speeds, even getting airborne.

The film gets even more surreal as the family members go deer hunting on horseback, armed with bows and arrows as well as rifles.

After they have left the horses and start quietly stalking through the forest, Sarah randomly says, “I don’t like hunting.”

In a suspenseful sequence, all of the hunters fire at a deer at the same time while Sarah yells, “No!” Ted chases after her into the woods, angry that she messed up the shot(s). Running through the trees, Sarah slams into a man who appears to have been gutted.

After the ambulance and sheriff have gone, Sarah returns to the house to sleep, though she is close to her wit’s end. Downstairs in Cathy’s artist’s studio, Cathy is also at her wit’s end as she complains about Gary (“I love Gary but I love my work”) as well as about Sarah (“There’s something very strange about Sarah”), while monks chant on the soundtrack. Ted tries to keep her calm with banal conversation.

The tension escalates until Sarah wakes up, opens the hope chest next to her bed, and finds the traditional Samurai outfit in the chest. At the same time as Sarah cuts her left hand on the Samurai sword she unsheaths, Cathy finds herself losing control of her left hand and painting something abstract that resembles blood and a Samurai.

Chillingly, Ted finds Sarah in the bedroom and tells her there is neither a chest nor a Samurai outfit in the room!

“You probably just had a nightmare and fell out of bed,” Ted explains.

Cathy returns to her studio, flashing back to a time when she was a child and, coincidentally, she cut her finger on a Samurai sword as well. (To be realistic, I assume this is a fairly common childhood incident.)

Gary confronts Cathy in the studio: “What do you think I am, anyway? Some kind of a piece of plastic that you can just push around and then dispose of me when I’m all finished?”

In an insightful scene that reflects the holiday experience of approximately 100% of the people in any universe, the entire family ends up in the living room awkwardly trying to relax and avoid the tension that permeates the house.

Outside, Uncle Pete, the Red Baron, has not so unpredictably driven his car into a ditch. He is attacked by something that kills him by slitting his throat at exactly the time Sarah has a mild attack of the jitters.

We next look in on the neighbors, an older couple with a dog named Chookie and a waterbed who, like neighbors in all films everywhere, are quite nasty to each other. A shadow falls over the lawn. The wife is killed while mixing her husband a cup of off-brand Tang in a Porkie Pig cup, while the husband jumps through a window before being shot with an arrow.

Coincidentally—or not so coincidentally, perhaps—at the same time, Sarah is back at her boyfriend’s house, pleasuring herself or perhaps being pleasured supernaturally, in a relatively awkward position, in bed.

The supernatural Samurai wastes no time, immediately besieging the family house. The kitchen shakes as if in an earthquake, a CB radio magically pops out of existence, and the telephone on the wall bursts into flame.

Also, Gary is attacked by flying oatmeal and soda cans (several years before the visionary Maximum Overdrive).

Meanwhile, Sarah’s self-pleasuring upstairs has resulted in a bright blue force field surrounding her bedroom (again, I assume this is a fairly common occurrence).

Cathy, the most sensitive family member, stands in the family room and asks, “Who are you? What do you want here?”

When the phantom Samurai slides his sword through a closet door, Cathy uses superpowers we did not suspect she had to magically fend him off.

In the aftermath, Cathy revives Gary, who was knocked out by the oatmeal and soda cans but it basically all right. Her son Ted joins them. Cathy seems to know what is going on. Clasping her hands together and looking up at the ceiling, she says, “He wouldn’t take me away from you and he would never take you and Dolly away from me.”

Ted says, “Mom, you don’t mean...Mama, you don’t mean...” He leaves it at that.

The filmmakers intercut Ted and Sarah making love with a group of hobos playing harmonicas in the forest. Sarah’s ambiguous sexual frustration/interest, having been thwarted by Cathy’s superpowers, floats through the woods. The Samurai appears and kills the men, though they half-heartedly attempt to fend it off with a flaming piece of firewood from their campfire.

The next morning begins with the sun rising over howling wolves on one of Wisconsin’s famed blasted heaths. Meanwhile, Gary crams the Red Baron’s body into the bed of his pickup, but the truck won’t start so of course he decides to use his horse to ride into town.

Also, Cathy and her daughter Dolly have a psychic confrontation, though they are in the same room. Cathy apologizes for whatever she has done with her psychic powers. Dolly wanders into the woods to look for her brother, who sits against a log with a hunting rifle, crying his eyes out. Instead of finding Ted immediately, however, the Samurai finds her and telepathically says, “Come to me.”

She runs away, screaming, and her screams are heard by Gary, who has returned on horseback from his five-minute trip into town.

Dolly, Gary, and Ted find each other in the forest just as the Samurai returns. “Shoot the son of a bitch!” yells Gary.

Gary grabs the rifle and aims, but the Samurai has vanished.

They hide behind a log and the Samurai returns again. Though it can seemingly teleport, like most Samurais, it has difficulty finding people hiding behind a log. It is also vulnerable to axes—Gary swings his axe as the mystical creature approaches, and it disappears, leaving its Samurai armor behind.

“Mom was right,” Dolly says. “Mom was right.” (She does not elaborate.)

They carry the armor back to the house. Cathy tells them to burn it. “It’s evil,” she says.

But Gary wants to take the armor to the police because, despite being attacked mystically by oatmeal and soda cans, he believes that a maniac was responsible for the attacks on his family.

Upstairs, Sarah burns an old photograph by holding her hand over it. Ted barges in and sees that she has superpowers as well. He steps toward her and she holds out her hands, surrounding Ted in a field of blue psychic energy.

In the end, Sarah reveals herself to be the Samurai. She puts on makeup and the armor.

Cathy confronts Sarah. “Would you prefer dying this time? You chose hell.” Cathy says she chose to use her power for good. “I know what you want. But you can’t destroy me. Not with your real god. Not with your false power.”

The Samurai advances on her. “You can’t destroy me with your power of good.”

But Cathy’s hands emit a red energy and the Samurai falls over. However, it stands back up, kills Gary by impaling him and Cathy by turning her skin flaky, and then confronts Ted and Dolly, who use their own psychic powers (sometimes red energy, sometimes blue energy) to make the Samurai vanish in a flash of white light.

The film ends as Ted and Dolly walk away from the house. For some reason.

As the description of the film makes clear, Bloodbeat is a heady philosophical piece about the power of love to overcome anything, even Samurai armor that takes the form of a college student to kill people in a Wisconsin forest. The film also features not one but two actresses who resemble Shelley Duvall -- Helen Benton (Cathy) and Claudia Peyton (Sarah). They are both nearly as good at screaming as Ms. Duvall as well, particularly Ms. Benton. It is unfortunate her character dies a mysterious death at the end of the film.

Unfortunately, the film must lose one or two minor quality points because its title, Bloodbeat (or Blood Beat) is not an accurate depiction of the film's events. Blood is understandable, because there is a small amount of blood depicted in the film. Beat, however, is more mysterious. If it refers to Sarah's experiences in the upstairs bedroom while she is alone (her mystical orgasms), then the title is crass and tasteless, and does not live up to the metaphysical, philosophical content of the film itself. If it refers to some other kind of beat, such as a musical beat, then I must admit it is a more tasteful contribution to the film's title, but I did not notice any musical beats in the film. The title must therefore be considered less than successful.

In the end, even if its title is half nonsensical, the film delivers as a successful and artistic pseudo-slasher with thought-provoking mystical elements.