Day 16: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October
Blood and Donuts
Directed by Holly Dale
1 hour, 29 minutes
I watched it on Shudder (a horror movie and TV streaming service).
There’s something endearing about the misfit group of friends in “Blood and Donuts.” But I can see why I hadn’t heard of this movie before this project. There’s something about it that doesn’t quite hit all the way. It’s supposedly a horror comedy but I only laughed a few times. It’s more just strange. But where it hits are those characters, those friends.
In 1969, Boya the vampire (a soulful Gordon Currie) gets depressed that a man walked on the moon and thus ruined it. So he climbed into a BODY BAG and stayed hidden and asleep for 25 years, until a golf ball broke the window in his hideout and woke him up. This is such a strong, absurdist opening, but the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to it.
Once Boya is so rudely awakened, he ventures out into 1995 Canada and it’s a painful transition. His money doesn’t look right; it still works, but its age immediately denotes something’s off. He looks strung out, dirty, exhausted, wears a big trench coat. Everything seems painful to him, which I would imagine it would after not moving for decades, even if you are a vampire.
Boya befriends the first human he interacts with, a cabbie named Earl (Justin Louis, working a strange but delightful accent – a mix of Italian and French with s’s at the end of lots of words). (Fun fact: Justin Louis played Sarah Polley’s sweetie/hottie husband in the awesome opening of the “Dawn of the Dead” remake.) Earl watches Boya suffer and commends him on being emotional, when men are so discouraged from crying and showing emotion and then proceeds to cry about his dead dog. This is a terrific introduction to both of them, as they both have more feelings than vampires and hardened city cabbies usually do in movies.
Boya starts to frequent the same coffee and donut shop that Earl loves, where he meets Molly (Helene Clarkson) and starts having some odd, sexy dream time with her. Just then, his old girlfriend, Rita (Fiona Reid), from his pre-bag days, shows up and she is pissed. One of the first times we see her, she’s in her salon and stretching out her skin to try to see how she looked when she was younger. Two young, perfect-looking women come in on her doing this and she quips, a touch of anger with her embarrassment, “I guess you’ve never done that.” So Rita feels Boya stole her youth and keeps begging him to turn her into a vampire, but he refuses. It’s clear that Boya hates being a vampire. When Molly declares him a humanist, that he loves people, he lights up. That’s exactly how he feels. He feeds off rats and pigeons and lives in a hovel of a hotel to avoid having to feed off people. He is barely surviving in this grimy world, a suffering, caring vampire. It’s like if “Taxi Driver” had been a sweet vampire movie.
David Cronenberg appears as the local crime boss. If that name is unfamiliar to you, if you’re, say, just a friend of mine reading this, please do yourself a favor and watch “Shivers,” “The Fly,” “Videodrome,” “The Dead Zone,” and on and on. The guy’s the patron saint of Canadian horror movies, hell, all of body horror. He’s one of the Soska Sisters’ big idols (for more on them: see my write-up about “American Mary”). But here, Cronenberg isn’t his usual magnetic self. He’s a little too low-key, apart from a horrific, hateful speech about “retards.”
Director Holly Dale had been making noted social justice documentaries before this and then went into directing television, which she’s still doing. Her credits include “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Dexter,” and “Reign.” Once again, we see a woman direct an interesting movie and then find real longevity directing television. I’m wondering how often I’ll see the same trajectory once I start writing about horror movies directed by men after this month. We all know more female directors find careers in TV than continuing in movies but I wonder if the stigma of horror means the men will have a similar path. Not that directing TV isn’t amazing, God knows we’re in a golden age where that’s concerned and I’m envious. The question is just whether that was their choice.
“Blood and Donuts” never gets all that intense but there are some really smart touches. Someone uses donut filling as a conduit to try to restart someone’s heart! The classic song “Twilight Time” plays throughout to help set that romantic but ironic tone. And big ow alert, after Earl gets beat up, the gangsters pour lemon juice on him. When things start to go really bad for Earl, Boya defends him and vamps out, declaring to his friend’s attackers, “You can’t kill someone who’s not alive.”
As one point, as Boya looks at the rising morning sun, Molly offers, “There’s room in the trunk.” Boya is kind but so damn weary and says, “Right. The Trunk.” He’s so sick of this subjugated life and you can’t blame him. He reminded me of Tom Hiddleston’s Adam in “Only Lovers Left Alive.” These guys are not living it up with this eternal life thing. They are tortured by it. Eternal life happened to two guys who were just especially too sensitive for it. That running theme is the most powerful part of this oddball but endearing little movie. Despite it not being a knock out of the park, it’s still a charming way to spend your time.