Reviewed by: Eric R. Lowther
Posted by: Root Rot
Hey, kids, it’s Eric R. Lowther, aka biguglyhairyscary, back again on the Witch’s Hat Blog with yet another movie review. This time we’re going to take a look at the 1995 snoozer “Blood and Donuts”, a vampire film that, ultimately, we’re supposed to pretend brings something new to the genre. Even considering its place as a forerunner to so many of today’s soft vampire flicks and my well-known propensity for the off-beat and different I still don’t think I can go that far with it.
Blood and Donuts (1995)
Written by: Andrew Rai Berzins
Directed by: Holly Dale
Boya (played by stalwart genre veteran Gordon Currie) is a centuries-oldvampire that had had enough of the undead life and decided to enter torpor in 1969, on the night we landed on the moon (yes… stop it… yes, we did land on the fucking moon… just… oh for fuck’s sake get over it already, we were there). 25 years later, an errant golf ball comes sailing through the window of his abandoned basement to conk him on the head and bring him back to the land of the living. Boya gets up, shrugs off his long nap and with shovel in hand hitches a ride to the town cemetery with cabbie Earl, played by Justin Louis. Louis is another genre veteran, though readers here will probably recognize him more from his small part as doomed husband Luis from Dawn of the Dead ‘04. Earl doesn’t question Boya’s odd look or the shovel in his hand even when coupled with Boya’s desired destination and instead goes on about men’s emotions and his dead dog for the duration of the ride. Once at the cemetery, Boya digs up a grave to retrieve the belongings he planted there 25 years ago consisting of an old suitcase filled with a bottle of whiskey, a dagger, an accordion, a long leather jacket and his photo album filled with pictures from his long, long unlife. This means that Boya shows up on film, and marks just one of many departures from cinema vampire legend. I will give you a spoiler here, though; at least he doesn’t play the damned accordion in the film.
But Boya isn’t the only thing awakened by the errant golf ball. Rita, the woman whom he loved and almost turned into a vampire that fateful night in 1969 (…yes damn it we DID land there… enough already) senses that her lover has awakened via the link they share from his aborted attempt to turn her. Boya’s conscience overrode him that night, stopping him from turning Rita into one of the undead. It also made him swear off human blood and instead gain his sustenance from pigeons and vermin. While Boya searches for a place to stay, Rita goes to the cemetery, conveniently hitching a ride with our cabbie, Earl, to get there. Once there, she discovers the open grave and Boya’s missing belongings and the hunt is on. While this is happening, Boya finds a roach motel to stay in and happens upon the all-night donut shop within sight of the hotel.
As the title implies, Bernie’s Donuts becomes the central point of the film, with everything starting, pausing for a breath, or ending there. Earl spends most of his time there, so much so that he’s on a first-name basis with waitress Mollie, played by Helene Clarkson, and the proprietor Bernie, played by genre veteran TV and movie character actor John Winston Carroll. It’s also where the underworld low-lifes Pierce and Axel come to find Earl when they want to force him into helping them with their work. Just such a thing happens on the night Boya decides to come back, setting us up for the eventual alignment of the movie’s characters at the donut shop. While the main characters are assembling, Boya saves Earl from being beaten to death for leaving the thugs mid-job and a friendship is born. The thugs go back to their boss, creatively called The Boss, to explain that their stoolie Earl has a new protector. The Boss, played as well as the writing allows by genre mega-veteran David Cronenberg, orders Pierce and Axel to get control of the situation and bring Earl back in line. Meanwhile, back at the donut shop, Boya offers for Earl to stay at his hotel room for his own protection then walks Mollie home. The sensitive vampire and the hard-boiled waitress’s interaction doesn’t stop there, though, and later we get treated to cut scenes intending to show us that Boya has yet another fantastical power; the power to infiltrate Mollie’s dreams in the traditional sheet-clenching way of a ghost rape.
The next day and into the night the movie picks up the pace a bit while still pulling off a feeling of lethargy. While Rita (the jilted lover from 1969) is searching for Boya, the vampire in question is busy solidifying the connection he’s made with Mollie. Meanwhile, Earl runs into the henchmen again and manages to get away, all the while telling the thugs that Boya is his protector now. Pierce and Axle go, of course, to the donut shop and interrupt the sensitive vampire spiel he’s working on Mollie (at lest they’re not leaping through the treetops), and this pisses Boya off enough to break a baseball bat in half and vamp out with full demon-faced prosthetics to scare off Pierce and Axel without somehow letting Mollie see his monster-face. Later that night, Rita happens to stumble upon Boya and sees him kiss Mollie on her doorstep. Rita follows Boya and they eventually wind up back in the graveyard. She confronts Boya about their long-ago relationship and tells him she wants him to finish the job he started and make her immortal before the rest of her looks go to pot. He declines, so she reacts in a reasonable fashion and stakes him through the heart. Sadly, the movie fails to throw a “finí” on the screen at this point. Instead, Boya pulls the stake out and tells Rita that she “shouldn’t believe everything she reads”. It seems the only vampire weaknesses Boya suffers from are sunlight and poor dialog, while he enjoys a conglomeration of physical and mental powers gathered up from half a dozen different sources. Later, Earl comes back to the hotel and discovers Boya’s bloody, staked shirt. He also finds Boya’s photo album of 100-year-old personal pictures and Boya himself soaking in a tub of bloody water with a pile of equally bloody pigeons beside him. Earl slowly puts two and two together and does a bit of a freak-out until Boya explains that he doesn’t feed from humans anymore. They come to an uneasy understanding and Earl leaves to get his head wrapped around it all.
The next morning, Rita confronts Mollie about her involvement with Boya and even shows her a picture of the two of them from back in the day. Mollie is understandably freaked the fuck out by it all and runs off to the donut shop while Earl returns to the hotel and nearly evaporates Boya when forgets his new friend is undead and he throws open the curtains. They talk for a few moments, and as if Earl wasn’t creeped out enough already Boya intimates that he’s not only undead, he’s also bisexual. Earl helps Boya into the closet (Yeah we got the joke, Berzins; bi vampire sleeping “in the closet”. Cute. Glad you didn’t strain yourself over that one.) so he can sleep without worrying over the sunlight coming through the thin curtains. But only a short time passes before Rita tracks Boya down in his room. After a bit more of back-and-forth where Rita admits she’s told Mollie about him and Boya again refuses to turn her, Rita tries to shoot herself in the head rather than grow old like the rest of us. Boya is barely able to keep her from doing it and Rita instead takes a grazing wound to her temple. The sight of her blood forces Boya to leave before he’s tempted to sample it and he runs out into broad daylight. Anybody want to guess where the flaming (yeah, got that one, too) and smoking vampire runs to? If you said the donut shop, then you’ve been paying attention. If you said anything other than the donut shop, you should run right out and see this movie NOW since you’re obviously its target audience.
Anyway, Boya collapses as soon as he hits the donut shop. Mollie, knowing what he is now after her run-in with Rita and seeing Boya in his current state, cuts herself and lets the disoriented Boya feed to save his life. The human blood hits him hard and he’s barely able to stop in time to keep Mollie from bleeding out. When he finally awakens, night has fallen. Boya runs out of the donut shop, the recently ingested human blood sharpening his senses until he can hear the Boss and his thugs working Earl over back in their hotel room. Boya comes through the window to find the gangsters holding Earl hostage. The Boss shoots Earl in the foot when he tries to get away, then a bunch of stuff happens and some other stuff is said. For being a pivotal moment in the film, it really didn’t keep my attention. I checked my notes for this part and found that I absently doodled something that looks like Snoopy dressed like Snake Pliskin, which is a project I could fully get behind. But I digress.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. So Boya attacks the Boss by cutting his temple with a fingernail then sucks at the blood for a few seconds. Apparently, the crime lord was already a few quarts low since this short suckling kills the man almost instantly. That or we’re seeing yet another funky vampire power pulled completely from Boya’s wig. Either way, Earl jumps out the window in part to get away from the thugs and in part to get away from the vamped-out Boya. Earl falls three stories to the pavement but still manages to crawl into the thugs’ car. Boya, now back to his normal face, joins him and they drive off. Meanwhile, back at the donut shop, Bernie and Mollie have a father/daughter type moment and she decides to run off and find Boya. Presumably, she’s looking for him to tell him she’s all okey-dokey with him being a vampire, though I secretly hoped it was to get him to take off that stupid wig he was saddled with from the first minute of the movie. From this point on the wheels really come off the bus, and what was a pretty stale yet somewhat goofy and almost humorous tale leads to a just a straight-up, what-the-fuck climax involving a convoluted deathbed speech, poorly-written melodrama, and a home-made defribulator. No, that wasn’t a typo. And if all that wasn’t enough, you’ll have to sit all the way through the credits just to see the complete ending.
Now for the nuts and bolts of the thing. The movie did a good job of introducing us to all the major players within the first 15 minutes or so, but unfortunately for us it seems that Berzins used up his allowance of brevity and timing to bring all the plot threads together at once and so early on in the movie. After that, things get continually sloppy. Characters bump into each other seemingly at random in the first half of the movie, and what they learn from one another goes past coincidental and into the “led by the nose ring” realm. Also, the characters are by and large kept within the same stereotypical pigeonholes. Mollie is the young, pretty waitress that should be out peddling headshots to fashion magazines and not slinging donuts and coffee and 3 a.m. Boya is the soft-spoken, conflicted vampire that has chosen to use his powers for good, or at the very least to not use them for evil. Earl is the slow yet big-hearted Everyman, though this Everyman has a terrible accent that really isn’t necessary and really can’t be attributed to any one foreign land. We have our two cookie-cutter henchmen in Pierce, the experienced old-hand and Axel, the brash young guido. We also have their Boss, and though he’s well-played by Cronenberg he’s the pretty standard tough, cold yet book-smart street boss, and rounding out the cast is Bernie, the diner owner with the gruff exterior and the heart of gold. The acting isn’t necessarily bad, and the bulk of the cast is skillful enough to make you at least think that the actors care about what they’re doing here. The dialog is all over the place though, ranging from the “hey that’s clever” to the “hey, where’s the fast-forward button”, but overall I guess the cheesier moments do fit into the overall makeup of the film.
Currie’s Boya is one of the archetype soft vampires, and while he doesn’t sparkle he is gifted with one very horrible wig. At least, I hope it’s a wig. His powers and abilities versus his weaknesses are a bit wonky, though, and his seeming ability to pull something out that is just the right power just when needed irked the shit out of me. Clarkson tries hard to look, and act, like a mid-90’s Kirsty Alley, right down to the really thick eyebrows, and for the most part she delivers as the minor heroine/love interest so long as she’s not given anything too overly reaching. Louis’s Earl is well-done, but his on again/off again accent was completely unnecessary as any difference in nationality never really comes up. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the actor’s idea and not really integral to the script. Cronenberg’s bits are good, but he’s not in it enough to try to carry the film, let alone save it when it goes into melodrama. The movie is technically proficient, though its habit of filming almost everything in close-up and some of the lighting choices really bothered me, especially the scenes in the motel room. I know we were going for a dark and brooding atmosphere for Boya to inhabit, but it doesn’t help when I can only see the flash of an arm or an eye in a sequence. It doesn’t help to build tension; it only serves to make you squint. Aside from the two times you see Boya in his full-on vampire face, some smoking flesh and just a little bit of blood here and there, there aren’t may effects to speak of. The ones that are there are decently underplayed and do stay in the style of the film, so much so that this movie could easily play on basic cable with little to no alterations.
So, the basic question; is it any good? Well, if you like light-hearted vampire fare you could probably do worse. If you’re a fan of various genre TV shows from the 90’s through today you might also get a kick out of this one considering most of the cast went on to those pastures with varying degrees of success. If you’re a serious genre fan it might be a nice diversion, but it’s not likely one you’re going to give repeated attention to. The movie is available for rent or streaming through Netflix, and you can get it for less than $10.00 through Amazon and your usual online outlets. There are at least two other DVD versions out there, one of them from Germany that lists for $20-$30.00 (Region 2), so as with a lot of horror we find either banal or blasphemous the Germans seemed to have taken notice. As I said, unless you’re a fan of one of the cast or you need some filler in your vampire collection I’d suggest renting before buying this one.
Well, that’s all from me. Thanks again to Mr. Rot for the time and space on the Witch’s Hat, and make sure you’re checking out all the other fine reviews and reviewers both here and on The Witch’s Hat Blogcast. So, until next review this has been biguglyhairyscary saying, see ya, kids.
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