Blood Beat (1982)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

Never underestimate the power of a Samurai-induced orgasm.

Blood Beat is an experimental semi-slasher that takes place during the Christmas season. Christmas has no connection to anything that’s happening in the film. It’s just there. There’s a Christmas tree in one scene and several people reference the holidays. Then, a phantom Samurai killer stabs people with his sword, which prompts protagonist Sarah to masturbate. Or have sex. When each person dies, Sarah has triple-orgasms. That’s essentially what happens in this film. But that doesn’t define it.

Siblings Ted and Dolly are home for the holidays. Mom is a painter. Her hands are literally possessed by ghosts. Stepdad Gary looks like Seymour Cassel circa Minnie and Moskowitz. That is, if Cassel wore nothing but camouflage. Ted says “Hey, check out my guns!” in reference to actual guns, not biceps. He also skins a deer, but fails to convince Sarah, his girlfriend, to have sex. Sarah discovers a Samurai helmet in an old chest. Lasers! Smoke! Pitch-shifted voices! The Samurai comes to life. He glows like a guy from Tron, but does not wear bikini-briefs like Samurai Cop. Death (sword to the neck, face, wherever) and sex (Sarah and her orgasms) converge. There’s also a waterbed with a humongous man in it, and a can of Tab is flung at the camera by a haunted kitchen.

Blood Beat feels like a Constructivist photomontage. Everything settles at disparate angles, but the more you examine it, the more appropriate it seems. Unlike a majority of obscure 80s trash, this film doesn’t force us to rely solely on humorous details for satisfaction. It’s not Fatal Games or Twisted Nightmare. Obviously, there are unintentionally comedic elements. But like Disconnected, there’s more going on. Blood Beat‘s baffling lineage (shot in Hyde, Wisconsin, edited in Paris) aligns with its baffling logic. And that makes it attractive, more as an “experience” than a narrative film. In addition to the cryptic plot points and sexual absurdity, the film is immersed in artsy techniques. Duotone negatives. Unexplained slow motion. Music that sounds like a midnight jam session featuring a Moog, a stick hitting a fence, and a string quartet. The landscapes are cold and ugly, just like the sex. All of this keeps us at arm’s-length, but never pushes us away completely. We want to see what happens next, even if it makes no sense. And there’s a power in that, too.

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