Sadist with the Red Teeth, The (1970)

Belgians are known for their waffles, beer, fries, and chocolate. Now, I understand. With so much time spent on eating and drinking, who has time for orthodox filmmaking? Jean-Louis van Belle certainly didn’t.

Le Sadique aux dents rouges (The Sadist with the Red Teeth) is a Belgian experimental, rough-hewn horror film that falls somewhere between George Romero’s Martin and Nick Millard’s Satan’s Black Wedding, but arrived before both. It also marks the first time I’ve seen a drummer play-synch to a Wurlitzer beatbox. Perfect. Forget the fact that the print has no subtitles — blood-red teeth, transparent spider eyes, and tornado stock footage communicate everything you need to know.

Daniel has just been released from a hospital. From now on, obsessive repetition is his game. Vampires, vampires, and more vampires! With his beautiful fiancée Jane in tow, Dan walks the city streets and daydreams that he’s a bloodsucker, imbuing encounters (softcore lesbian photo shoot, date to the movies, trip to the dentist) with splashes of fake blood and plastic fangs. Or maybe he’s just a nut. After an elderly vampire converts Dan to the real deal, everybody gets a taste of what’s been going on in his mind. The costume party writhes, the organ beats beat, and tragedy soon appears.

The bouncing psych score. The disturbing imagery. The spookhouse-lite inserts. The boggling stock footage. The Sadist with the Red Teeth throws all of that shit together and keeps it together. Like magic. A random mix of strange camera effects and ambiguous events constantly question where the film’s reality lies. Is Daniel really a vampire? Is it all a dream? Do cap-guns really work just like real guns? That erratic confusion is a fitting complement for the weirdo presentation. In turn, the film becomes a low-budget, reckless feast. Dime-store vampires, hallucinogenic nightmares, and loads of watery stage blood all convene into 75 minutes of unguided spookiness.

From the Archives