Ted and his sister, Dolly, are headed home to spend Christmas at their mother Cathy’s rural farmhouse in Wisconsin. But Ted’s new girlfriend, Sarah, doesn’t seem to be invoking any Christmas cheer in Cathy, and the feelings seem to be mutual. Both women are getting strange vibes from the other. Ted brushes it off and tries to go about business as usual, but not long after Ted and Sarah’s arrival people around the rural town start dying at the hands of a mysterious Samurai-garbed assailant, and it doesn’t take long for the sword wielder to set their sights on the not so merry family.
And you thought that the Krampus was a weird Christmas tradition.
In case any of you are wondering, yes, you read that right. This is a story about a family who gets accosted by a Samurai at Christmas. It also involves psychics, telepathy, ghosts, a murderous kitchen, dead animals, sex and a good smathering of blood. It is a veritable cornucopia of WTF in regards to holiday movies. It’s a slasher/mystery/supernatural thriller all rolled into one that is set around Christmas, and the end result comes with all the highs and lows such a patchwork of genres and ideas can produce.
Okay. Let’s just get this out of the way now: This movie is weird. Like, I mean, I’m a fan of weird Japanese cinema (Hi, Hausu!), and even I thought this one was weird. It doesn’t start off that way, though. It starts off harmless enough with a hunter bringing home his prize to his girlfriend, the kids coming home, and a very awkward staredown between Mom and the new girlfriend. Other than the dead deer carcass hanging from a tree, there’s not really anything too out of the ordinary or odd going on here (and even in certain parts of the country the dead deer is perfectly normal.) Sure, Mom and the new girl spend a lot of time awkwardly dancing around one another, but again, that’s not too out of place. It isn’t until Sarah freaks out during a disastrous family hunting trip, one that she didn’t even want to go on I might add, that things start heading into trippy territory. After that, things just get more and more head-scratchy as time goes by.
This is the calm before the storm, believe it or not.
Blood Beat has some serious downsides beyond just it’s bonkers Samurai-induced premise. For starters, there’s the acting. It’s…not good. Just about everyone here is pretty terrible, either for the simple fact that no one can emote to save their life, or because their attempts at it are more wooden than the forest that surrounds the farm house.
Then there’s the dialogue. Like the rest of the movie it starts out innocently enough, if not bland as all hell. But it seems to follow an unspoken theme throughout the film of slowly cranking up the crazy as the movie progresses. In one more notable instance, Cathy begins to worriedly tell her boyfriend, Gary, that she thinks something bad is happening, and his immediate reaction is to get in her face and start yelling at her for not wanting to marry him. There’s no buildup to it, he just gets right up in there and starts screaming. And Cathy doesn’t even react to this outburst, as if it’s a completely normal reaction. Considering that up till this point Gary had given off nothing more than a calm, ‘good ‘ole boy’ vibe, it’s completely jarring for him to flip the switch to potentially abusive boyfriend mode at the drop of a hat. The other actors don’t fare much better in this department, either. There’s a lot of instances were lines are unnecessarily repeated, or are so vague that they don’t make a lick of sense. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that many of the people who worked on this film didn’t go on to do anything else. Before that though is a different matter, because after thinking about it for more than 24 hours, the more I look at her, the more I’m 99% sure I saw the actress for Dolly in the Coronet short, Improve Your Pronunciation, from the 1970’s.
Is it her? Is it?! I MUST KNOW! I wanna update her IMDB page!
The other major downside the film has is the sound. There are just as many instances of it being perfectly clear as there are of it being damn near incomprehensible. There are multiple instances where the actors are talking too softly, the microphone seems to have been placed in another room, or the background music is so loud it drowns out the dialogue completely. This is especially bad during the climactic ending sequence where Cathy confronts the Samurai. The music is so loud you can’t make out what she’s saying. Hell, you can’t make out what the villain is saying during the scene either, because while their voice is loud enough to hear they also put it through some kind of audio filter making it sound like a synthed-out mess. I had to watch it twice with subtitles on just to figure out what they were saying, and even then there are instances where you can tell even the subtitler didn’t have a damn idea what they were talking about either.
I’m pretty sure this line WAS actually in English. The subtitler just gave up. I don’t blame them.
All that isn’t to say that Blood Beat doesn’t have any redeeming features. For one, it has a fair share of surprisingly arty moments. It uses slow motion, duotone negatives, scenic desolate landscapes and extreme angles, which helps make the film feel even more surreal.
Plus, thanks to its ludicrous premise, the film does have some entertaining moments. Like when the kitchen goes nuts and starts attacking Gary with everything in the cupboards, or how the films only way to visualize ‘power’ is to put a red or blue Tron-like glowing halo over everything. And I still don’t know why the stock footage of WWII was spliced in there. Even in a movie seemingly filled with random ideas, that one sticks out as a particularly odd addition.
Jeff Bridges, is that you?
She’s either fighting off an evil spirit, or channeling the Christmas Tree. Jury’s still out.
This moment of insanity is brought to you NessQuick and Lipton Iced Tea.
So is Blood Beat any good? Depends on what you’re looking for. I went into this movie looking for a bat-shit insane ‘holiday’ film, and I was not disappointed. The plot’s all over the place, the people are insane, and even after watching the ending three times I’m still not sure what the hell was going on. Hell, at this point I’m not entirely sure what sub-genre it belongs to. So if you’re looking for something completely different to watch this holiday season, then look no further. If you’re looking for more of a traditional slasher, or ghost story (or whatever the hell this thing is supposed to be) with an even remotely comprehensible plot, however, than I guarantee this is not what you’re looking for. But the more patient and adventurous might find a few things to enjoy here.
Blood Beat is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
It is also available as part of a DVD/Bluray combo pack.