Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blood and Donuts

Blood and Donuts (1995)
Dir. Holly Dale
Written by Andrew Rai Berzens
Starring Gordon Currie, Justin Louis, Helene Clarkson, David Cronenberg

    BLOOD AND DONUTS is a well-meaning little Indie horror/comedy out of the 90s, which is pretty much shorthand for saying it’s ambitious but full of stilted, forced wannabe-Tarantino dialogue and filmmaking which ranges from adorably inept to unwatchable. As discussed previously, the 90’s were indie filmmaking’s awkward teenage years, as wannabe auteurs took inspiration from Tarantino and Kevin Smith, got together some local actors and a few hundred bucks, and made their ambitious dream projects that the studios would have laughed out of the room. They could be the next Tarantino or Smith! Of course, they wouldn't be, oh God, not at all, not even close. But no one had the heart to tell them that. So stuff like this got made.

    It’s not all bad in this case, though. It has a kind of nifty setup, even if it doesn’t do much with it. Seems a vampire named Boya (Gordon Currie), depressed with life, crawled into a burlap sack in 1969 and stayed there until awakened by an errant golf ball in 1995. The opening credits, where a golfer (Cronenberg? Looks like it might be) slices a bunch of (CG) balls at the screen makes it seem like it’s going to be A) a wacky comedy and B) in some way about golf, but neither is really true. Instead, the newly reanimated Boya wanders around, stays out of the sun, and gets involved in the lives of a idiot taxi driver named Earl (Justin Louis) and an I-guess-considered-hot-in-1995 24 hour donut retailer (Helene Clarkson). It’s mostly an indie drama with a few chuckles here and there, a bunch of self-conscious monologues (you know, like Tarantino would do!) and a vampire who doesn’t drink blood. No horror here whatsoever, except that it’s a vampire. So actually, it’s kind of a proto-TWILIGHT but with moderately attractive Canadians and some minor traces of a human soul. 

Jennifer Connolly called from 1987, she wants her eyebrows back.

    Currie is actually pretty good as Boya, coming across as endearing, sad, and appropriately idiosyncratic (the guy has spent 40 years in a bag, after all) but Louis, as cab driver Earl, is disastrously unfunny. There’s a running discussion on IMDB about what kind of accent he’s attempting: Bad Christopher Walken? Bad Robert De Niro from TAXI DRIVER? Bad Eastern European? Bad Quebecois? Hard to tell, but you’ll notice they all have something in common*. Earl is in a bad way with the local Toronto mob (wha?), and it’s up to Boya to save him, but Earl is such an annoying moron that you never feel very inclined to support Boya’s misguided quest to save this jackass. Especially since David Cronenberg, at his most monologue-indulgent, is the mob boss Earl owes money to. And unfortunately, that’s the crux of the drama, since even though Boya mildly romances the donut girl, there’s not really any conflict there. A more interesting subplot involves Boya’s ex, who’s been waiting for him for decades and, faced with the prospects of getting old, is not taking "no" for an answer. It seems like that one is going someplace interesting that might explore the basic sadness of it’s premise, but no, it just peters out so we can learn if Earl is OK.

The movie tries for some genuine drama, and Boya is good enough to almost sell it, but frankly the whole thing is narratively nonexistent and consequently any attempt at drama is mostly unearned and unsuccessful. Cronenberg (in one of his rare acting roles) has some fun with his kooky speeches about boots, but he’s only in a few scenes and turns out to be pretty unimportant to whatever plot ends up sneaking past all the hip monologues. Most damningly, the film is mostly set in a 24-hour coffee and donut shop which frankly is the single most unconvincing set I’ve ever seen in a movie. Maybe in Canada your donut shops look like enormous empty warehouse** soundstages with a tiny counter at one end, but here in America it would be ridiculous to pay that rent on a donuts-and-coffee budget. Especially if you’re gonna do it 24 hours. Where the fuck are they even baking these donuts, since there’s no kitchen or bakery to be seen? I was OK with tormented hundred-year old vampire and was even willing to tolerate the terrible Christopher Walken accent, but this crosses the line.  

*Fittingly, it seems like Justin Louis, so terrible in this, would go on to be the most successful actor in the cast, going on to appear (briefly) in THE DAWN OF THE DEAD REMAKE, Breaking Bad, and even SAW IV (Whoever “Art Blank” was, I can’t remember if he was important). Director Holly Dale wouldn’t do any more movies, but would go on to become a prolific TV director.

**I initially misspelled this as "werehouse", which suddenly gives me a great idea for a better horror movie.


LOVECRAFT ADAPTATION: No, unless he wrote a vampire romantic comedy I'm unaware of.
BOOBIES: None. Although Boya is pretty ripped and spends quite a bit of time in the bathtub. Into melancholy hardbodied Canadian vampires? Christmas just came early.
> or = HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS LEVEL GORE: Massive slaughter of rats, pigeons, bats. Not so much for humans.
OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid-High, Indie Canadian 90's fare.

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