Thursday, March 11, 2010

In short: Blood Stalkers (1978)

The most annoying quartet of city people ever to grace the Florida backwoods - Vietnam vet Mike (Jerry Albert), his wife Kim (Toni Crabtree), "entertainer" Daniel (Ken Miller) and his wife or girlfriend, the dancer Jeri (Celea Ann Cole) and her pneumatic cleavage - has decided to spend two weeks in a hut in the middle of nowhere Mike inherited from his parents.

The typical weaselly gas station attendant (Herb Goldstein) warns the travellers off in the usual rude and unhelpful way, because, he says, Mike's hut lies in the territory of the "blood stalkers", whatever that may be.

Not surprisingly, neither he nor the threatening stares of the other friendly country folk can dissuade the tourists from their holiday plans.

Even before they have finally found their way to the hut, the quartet has started to bicker and blabber melodramatically, and they sure as hell aren't going to stop that for quite some time, even when strange noises and a vandalized car should distract them.

After some time, destiny shows some consideration for the mental health of the film's viewers, and something with very hairy arms attacks Jeri. Mike's experiences as a soldier save everyone's lives, but it is clear that someone has to go for help.

How unfortunate that someone has now sabotaged the car completely. Mike decides to make his way through the woods to ask the country people for help, while Daniel "protects the women". You can probably imagine how well the latter works out.

Meanwhile, Mike arrives safely in Hicksville, but finds nobody willing to help him and his friends.

Blood Stalkers was written and directed by ex-radio-DJ and "bigfoot expert" Robert W. Morgan and is Morgan's only directing job. Frighteningly, the man has also written the script to (Florida's beloved son's) William Grefe's shark torture porn movie Mako: The Jaws of Death, which is not what I'd call a recommendation.

I sure wish someone had re-written Morgan's script for Blood Stalkers a bit, because as it stands, the film's first hour is pretty dreadful. There's lots of driving around through Florida while nothing at all happens and even more annoying bickering between the utterly loathsome characters to slog through, all of it filmed with all the charm and energy of a dead rat.

Until, suddenly and quite unforeseeable, the movie (and with it at least this viewer) suddenly jumps up and screams: "But look at this!" and turns into a raw but clever piece of typical 70s horror. Suddenly, Morgan even does some actual directing beyond pointing the camera and shrugging. There's a really clever bit when Mike tries to get help from a local black church community, but is (with much more trepidation than the white people show) turned away with a look that to me seems to have a lot to say about the black experience in the Deep South of the US.

What exactly he and the preacher are saying to each other is drowned out by the church's gospel choir, which will continue to dominate the soundtrack a bit longer while Mike is desperately running and his friends are desperately dying.

After that, the film takes a rough and nasty turn into revenge flick territory, presented with the sort of dryness and ruthlessness that is typical for exploitation cinema of this era and bend. It's extreme enough that my emotional reaction to the proceedings wavered at the point where the ridiculous and the depressingly bleak meet, as it should be.

That surely isn't what one had expects from a film that was trying to bore one out of one's mind just minutes before.


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