Bloodbeat Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Written and directed by Fabrice A. Zaphiratos
1983, 87 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 24th, 2017
Helen Benton as Cathy
Terry Brown as Gary
Claudia Peyton as Sarah
James Fitzgibbons as Ted
Dana Day as Dolly
Peter Spelson as Uncle Pete
Cathy and boyfriend Gary are expecting her adult children Ted and Dolly for Christmas. Ted brings his girlfriend Sarah along to meet the family. Cathy and Sarah immediately strike a weird vibe and remain standoffish to each other. Mom spends a lot of her time painting while Sarah stays in her room. That night Sarah dreams of samurai armor and a katana stashed away in a trunk. Before long a mysterious phantom samurai is stalking the woods and hunting neighbors before turning his attention to Cathy’s family. At one point the house comes under attack by negative energy and everything flies off the shelves, injuring Gary and scaring Dolly. Sarah manages to sleep through the whole thing but has a strange psycho-sexual relationship with the samurai, reaching orgasm whenever he attacks. It turns out just about everyone has psychic powers and can interact with the villain on some level. This sounds like a lot of disjointed nonsense and in a way, it is.
Supernatural slashers can sound great on paper but often fall apart upon execution. Bloodbeat (aka Blood Beat) is a strange film to say the least. Plot is not a priority and neither is character development. What we get are a series of scenes that string together to tell a loose story. Not a lot makes sense, but you can follow it and leave feeling like you’ve seen something. I think it may be a victim of art getting in the way of the story. I applaud artistic choices when I feel that I am along for the ride in the hands of someone who knows exactly what they are doing. I understand that it is occasionally my responsibility to keep up. That is not the case here. I believe French writer/ director Fabrice Zaphiratos knows the story he wants to tell, but something gets lost in translation from idea to screen.
Pacing is the first casualty here as it takes a while for things to get started. I can credit the filmmaker some time for setup, but once things happen they do so arbitrarily. A deer hunting trip ends with Sarah running into a dying stranger. He sticks around long enough to provide a jump scare before dying, but is quickly dismissed once everyone goes home for the day. In another example, the house comes under attack from psychic energy and terrorizes the family until it leaves and is promptly forgotten. Characters are occasionally introduced and killed off before receiving a name. The samurai angle is underdeveloped as to what exactly is going on, but I think I figured it out a little - maybe? Zaphiratos doesn’t elaborate on the details. Stuff happens, but I can’t tell you what a lot of it means and this is more frustrating than awe-inspiring.
Bloodbeat is a forgotten film from 1983, dusted off by our friends at Vinegar Syndrome and given a full 4K restoration. I approached the material with low expectations and still managed to leave disappointed. Not knowing what is going on can be appealing if challenging, but I don’t think the director had much of a vision either. Sometimes this plays like a student film that is all style over substance and I can’t really recommend this title no matter how far out it may sound.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the film was given a 4K restoration based on the original camera negative, which is occasionally marred by mold. When it’s clean it looks fantastic. Colors pop and black levels are substantial.
The original audio has been cleaned up and is presented in a respectable DTS-HD MA mono track that has a few murky moments but is generally pleasing. Dialogue is occasionally muffled and the soundtrack is frequently overwhelming.
The film begins with a brief (17 second) intro in which the director introduces himself. Not much of an intro, but at least we can put a face to the name. In French with English subtitles.
An audio commentary by Fabrice Zaphiratos is moderately interesting, as his memories of the production remain sharp. He has a lot to say and never has a problem telling a story. The French language track contains English subtitles.
Zaphiratos sits down for an all-new interview (18 minutes) in which he provides some biographical information before reflecting briefly on the legacy of the film. This is a French-language interview with English subtitles.
Shooting Blood Beat (19 minutes) is an English-language interview with cinematographer Vladimir Maule, who discusses how he got the job. He shares several production stories and has fond memories of the shoot.
Blood Beat “The Silent Version” (28 minutes) features a condensed look at the film without dialogue or sound effects but rather focusing on an isolated score.
L.U.N.C.H. (14 minutes) is a short film directed by Zaphiratos’ son William, in French with English subtitles.
A still gallery provides a look at production photos and behind-the-scenes images that play as a slideshow set to music from the film.