Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Every trend needs a defining trendsetter. In the case of SOV trash, it wasn’t mullets or acid wash jeans or people riding ATVs. It was Blood Cult.
When Blood Cult hit home video rental stores, Variety billed it as “The first movie made for the home video market.” The distributor was United Entertainment Pictures. United was a Tulsa, Oklahoma company specifically started by the late Bill Blair to produce and distribute SOV horror films on home video. In my 2005 interview with Blair, he said, “At the time, Blood Cult was a new item on the market. It was highly successful in its return.” Although preempted by the release of Boardinghouse, Sledgehammer, and Black Devil Doll From Hell, the film still stakes a claim. Albeit a dull one.
We experience the longest slasher point-of-view opening ever conceived. I think it lasted for two hours. After that, we meet Sheriff Ron, a dead ringer for Harry Carrey by way of Charles Nelson Reilly. He’s on the trail of a sorority girl killer who wears Chuck Taylors and leaves tiny golden amulets on the body of each victim. Of course, this prompts someone to say, “Could this be a Dungeons & Dragons game?!” Ron is having a tough time cracking the case, which is weird. You’d think that sitting around and talking would get the job done. Lucky for our hero, Tina is here. Tina is Ron’s daughter and she’s supposed to be in college. However, Tina is most likely forty-two years old. Due to her middle-age sleuthing skills, we find out that the slasher is killing to appease the Satanic god Caninus and collecting body parts as he goes. Graphic gore, endless conversations, and a preoccupation with salads are all that remain.
Agonizing pace aside, Blood Cult made its mark in a big way. Professionally shot and edited, it feels like a studio-backed slasher that just happens to be SOV. It’s different than something like Black Devil Doll From Hell, which feels like it was discovered in the dumpster of an abortion clinic. That’s probably why the film seemed so approachable when someone got it home and powered up the VCR. It looks good. It doesn’t feel like it comes from some filthy netherworld. Yet, that’s the very reason why it doesn’t hold up today. Blood Cult isn’t slick enough to complement theatrical releases like The Prowler. But it’s also not distinct enough to provide a lasting trash experience, like Heavy Metal Massacre. This is a tedious slasher with a tiny bit of fun. SOV or not, there’s no time for that when films like Doctor Bloodbath exist.
Thanks to Blood Cult’s success, United earned enough to fund two additional Blair/Lewis collaborations (next: The Ripper; later: Revenge: Blood Cult II). This also laid the framework for the company’s output during the remainder of the decade, including the distribution of The Last Slumber Party. So, if it wasn’t for Blood Cult, there would be no Chris. Think about that.