This “Blood Cult” Isn’t Worth Joining

Posted: January 27, 2012 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s the thing — I want to like director Christopher Lewis’ 1985 shot-on-video slasher Blood Cult so much more than I actually do. That’s largely due to its place in movie — or, more specifically, home video — history. Ya see, Blood Cult is the first ever SOV direct-to-home-video flick, and anyone who’s followed this blog for any any period of time knows that my love for this genre knows no bounds. For reasons either too complex, or entirely too simple, to figure out, dime-store backyard horrors have always resonated with this armchair critic and always will, and this is where it all began.

Perhaps a bit of history is in order here — with the major Hollywood studios figuring out in the mid-80s that releasing their own back catalogues on VHS was going to be both cheaper and more profitable than licensing them out to the numerous video labels that were popping up all over the place, outfits like Tulsa, Oklahoma-based United Home Video suddenly realized they had to either adapt or die. Most of their contemporaries did, indeed, peter out in relatively short order, but United survived (and carries on to this day under the VCI Entertainment label) by hitting on the rather ingenious idea of just making their own fucking movies. Simple, right? And they also figured (wisely, as it turns out) that by slapping some fancily lurid cover art on their straight-to-VHS wares, that they could hoodwink potential renters out there into thinking they were taking home the next great slasher flick (note the “In the tradition of Halloween” tag-line on the box art courtesy of the fine folks at VHSCollector.com) instead of some essentially homemade quickie.

In theory that all sounds good, and frankly in practice a lot of these subsequent efforts (think Video Violence and its sequel, Video Violence 2, Woodchipper Massacre, Captives, Killing Spree (okay, that was shot on film, but it’s still roughly of a piece with the other flicks we’re talking about here) and The Basement (alright, that was film, too — sue me), to name just a small handful) proved to be good, solid, admittedly cheesy fun. But the first steps out of the gate for the SOV-DTV genre were pretty tepid indeed.

That’s because Blood Cult, sadly, is pretty much nothing more than a crushing bore. I’m more or less genetically hardwired to love any shot-on-a-camcorder slasher made in and around Tulsa for $27,000 featuring less-than-basement-level production values, but damn if I didn’t find this flick to be one tough slog. I’m sorry, but the story of grizzled police detective (or maybe he’s a sheriff, it’s never all that clear) Ron Wilbois (Charles Ellis) attempting to solve a string of bloody sorority-house murders on a local college campus with the help of his intrepid librarian daughter, Tina (Juli Andelman) just isn’t nearly as intriguing as its admittedly by-the-numbers-but-that’s kinda-why-we-love-these-things premise would indicate.

The only clue left at the murder scenes is a medallion emblazoned with a dog’s head, and it’s Tina’s five-minute-long occult research that clues her old man into the fact that this is the symbol of an ancient satanic cult that’s into collecting body parts for (obviously) nefarious purposes. Throw in the requisite half-assed “acting,” poor gore effects, minimal editing resulting is some painfully lengthy takes, etc. that would all become de riguer in the SOV world and we would definitely seem to have a winner on our hands here. Yet as I’ve mentioned more than once already, Blood Cult never really manages to find its groove, frankly because it doesn’t even seem to be trying to. It’s almost as if Lewis and company were more concerned with just getting the damn thing made and out there than actually producing something remotely worth watching. Once they had your three or four dollar rental fee in their pockets, you were on your own, sucker — their job was done.

If you must, Blood Cult is available on DVD from VCI (naturally) — the full-frame picture has been remastered and looks reasonably good, the sound is mono but decent enough, and as you might guess being that they own the damn thing extras are plentiful, including cast and crew interviews, a trailer, a promo reel-even-though-it’s-not-on-a-reel-per-se, and a reasonably interesting feature-length director’s commentary. All in all a more than adequate package for a less than adequate movie.

United would go on to crank out a few more of these, most notably The Ripper and the  direct Blood Cult sequel Revenge, neither of which are exactly classics in the SOV world themselves, but they did get a little better, or at least more interested in what they were doing, as they went along. Unfortunately their first (hell, anyone’s first) foray into the field is too lackluster to be interesting without being actively bad enough to be fascinating. It just sort of happens.

If you’re wise, you’ll ignore its place in both horror and home video history and let it happen to someone else.

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