Vestron Week at Daily Grindhouse has been a nostalgia trip for a lot of us, but the movie I earmarked to write about, BLOOD DINER, isn’t one that’s been a part of my own life for too long. I only saw it for the first time a couple years ago, doing a late-night YouTube horror-movie binge. The video-store experience is effectively dead, and we’re all the lesser for it. There’s something to be said for YouTube as the reincarnation of those halcyon days, where nascent movie maniacs used to run through the VHS aisles, pulling down and renting whatever box art caught their hungry eyes. That’s probably not a new thesis. It’s still a lesser experience, because combing the internet for movies is generally far more solitary an activity, and besides, there’s no replacing that box art.
Don’t go looking for BLOOD DINER on YouTube now; it’s apparently been taken down in light of the new Blu-Ray release from Lionsgate. But do go looking for that Blu-Ray, because I’m about to sell you on the movie itself and the special edition is everything a next-generation movie maniac could want from a release like this one.
BLOOD DINER is a fascinating anomaly for several reasons. It’s a riff on the 1963 classic-if-you-ask-us BLOOD FEAST, from the dearly departed Herschell Gordon Lewis. Producer Jimmy Maslon and writer Dukey Flyswatter (born Michael Sonye and maybe best known for his punk bona fides), both HGL enthusiasts, envisioned BLOOD DINER as an sorta sequel to BLOOD FEAST, and there are skeletal similarities plot-wise, but BLOOD DINER goes its own way. The common denominator is gore.
After opening on an advisory reminding viewers not to try any of these stunts at home (itself a cue as to what sort of tone we can expect), the movie opens with jubilant doo-wop music, placing the first scene in a more upbeat, idyllic America. Two boys, George and Michael — theoretically no relation to the singer of the same two first names — are playing in the living room of their house when their uncle Anwar stops by, looking as he does in the still frame above. The boys are delighted to see him, and react with joy as he rants about the glory of the goddess Sheetar and promises to return, just before being shot down by the coppers. A couple decades later, and the now-grown George and Michael, who run a popular restaurant, head out to the cemetery one night to dig up Anwar’s remains.
The boys put Anwar’s somehow-still-intact brain and eyeballs in a jar filled with formaldehyde, celebrating the reunion. I’ve watched this movie three times and I still can’t entirely tell if Anwar’s dick is supposed to be in that jar also. It would explain a lot, because he’s one horny bastard.
“Sheetar, your body looks good. What a set of knockers! If I only had my schlong, you would know the meaning of machismo.” — Uncle Anwar.
Anwar barks out commands to George and Michael, telling them to bring the goddess Sheetar to glorious life by collecting multiple body parts from multiple women. The boys go about their mission in a couple stages. The first and obviously the most inspired is when they put on Reagan masks, POINT BREAK style, and gun down the occupants of a nude aerobics studio. Which did not happen in POINT BREAK, to my memory. Feel like I would definitely have remembered that happening.
Another phase of the boys’ plan involves dressing up like assholes and heading to a nightclub, spotting talent and bringing them back to the restaurant, where they then proceed to literally turn the ladies into food. The parts they don’t use go into whatever they serve their unwitting customers, whereas the useful pieces go towards assembling their Sheetar project like a sexy Voltron.
For very obvious reasons, BLOOD DINER put me in mind of movies like MOTEL HELL and FRANKENHOOKER, although it precedes the latter, and BLOOD DINER very much has its own vibe. It plays more giddy than perverse or deranged. The performances by Rick Burks as Michael and Carl Crews as George are committed but very silly, and weirdly enthusiastic. After the brothers succeed at enacting Anwar’s vision and when Sheetar finally shows up, abdominal dentata and all, the movie shifts into another gear and becomes very LADY TERMINATOR, but again, this movie got there first. BLOOD DINER isn’t scary for a second, despite consisting on several classic horror elements, but it has a dedicated and thorough insanity that is by far the most consistent (and crucial) quality of a very loosely-plotted film.
The director of BLOOD DINER was Jackie Kong. This was her third feature, after THE BEING and NIGHT PATROL. According to her IMDb page, she made another feature afterwards, called THE UNDER ACHIEVERS (also released in 1987), and then resurfaced in 2001 with a TV series called KARAOKE NIGHTS. But as her official site clearly and rightly states, you can’t trust every last thing you read on IMDb. I will admit I am still at the beginning of my research into the work of Jackie Kong.
I will admit it’s intriguing to me that in the 1980s, an era where madcap sex comedies and gory slasher movies were being manufactured en masse, an Asian-American woman entered into both genres, both of which were and still are as white-male-dominated as genres come. Of course anyone can and should be able to make whatever kinds of movies they want to make, but sometimes the reasons people make certain movies can be as interesting as the movies themselves. It’s not like there weren’t women making horror movies in the 1980s, but there weren’t many, and none of them made horror movies like this one. Very recently, Jackie Kong has been touring the rep circuit with BLOOD DINER, and interviews are starting to pop up all over, so maybe we don’t have to idly wonder how a movie like this one comes into being. I do, however, still need to find an explanation for the dummy.
Yeah. Didn’t have space for it in the bulk of the preceding piece, but there’s a dummy in this movie. (And he has a little cigarette!) Like I said up top, track it down and see it.
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