Judge Paul Pritchard is a cereal killer. Every new victim he claims leaves him feeling "Grrrreat!"
"Junkies, man. Junkies!"
With nearly every '80s slasher movie worth its salt having already been remade or rebooted, it would seem the last thing anyone would want right now is a homage to the genre. That's a notion apparently lost on writer/director Drew Rosas, and thank goodness for that. Shot for a mere $7,000, Blood Junkie should please fans of Ti West's The House of the Devil. It's a well-crafted horror comedy that nails the Eighties aesthetic perfectly. A brief pre-credits sequence sets the scene. Shot on low-grade stock (or at least appearing that way), we see a homeless man fall victim to the eponymous Blood Junkie. What stands out immediately, and continues to impress throughout, is the quite frankly excellent editing work. Straight away, the film just feels professional, and more importantly, a genuine product of the golden age of American horror. The credits sequence that follows confirms the hard work Rosas has put into his debut feature. A Carpenter-esque synth score (which continues throughout the picture) ensures the viewer is fully immersed into the Eighties vibe before the film proper starts. Once underway, the film just continues to impress with its attention to detail. We get cheesy montages, sex-obsessed teens, awful fashions, and a slightly creepy little kid.
The plot is so simple that it could have been written on the back of a napkin, with room to spare. Friends Teddy Bender (Mike Johnson) and Craig Wilson (Nick Sommer) bump into a couple of girls while hanging outside their local 7-11. Thanks to Craig's smooth talk, they manage to coerce Laura (Sarah Luther) and Rachel (Emily Treolo) into joining them on a camping trip. Though Rachel is forced to bring her kid brother along, the group sets out to a remote factory that Teddy had scoped out sometime earlier. Following a few sexual hijinks, the group becomes the target of a deranged killer who stalks the woods, leaving them fighting for survival.
The cast, full of unknowns, is perfectly in synch with Rosas' vision; in fact many of them were involved behind the cameras, too, adding to the film's "DIY" approach to moviemaking—something it is rightly proud of. The cast is instrumental in ensuring the retro vibe never slips, with Nick Sommer in particular impressing in the role of Craig—the film's main source of comedy.
Clocking in at just 72 minutes, Rosas' film shows a knack for pacing, with the horror really only kicking in around the 50-minute mark. Prior to that, the film trades mostly on its comedy, which generally hits the mark. Still, even during these lighter moments, there is a dark undercurrent that refuses to be shaken. Not wanting to give too much away, but one character in particular just has something about them that more knowing viewers will pick up on immediately. Once Blood Junkie goes into full-on horror mode, Rosas turns in a more than competent slasher movie, with quality gore and one or two nasty kills. It's nice to report how little mercy Rosas shows to characters he's previously spent time getting us to like, with a final revelation confirming the dark heart at the center of the film.
As is so often the case, there is a downside to Blood Junkie, though its negatives are highly dependent on what kind of cinema lover you are. If you are only interested in films full of originality, then walk away now, as this is not on Rosas' agenda at all. Even forgetting the film's aspirations of being an Eighties slasher, there is absolutely nothing here that you won't have seen elsewhere before. The second problem is that Blood Junkie belongs to that oft-maligned corner of the film world: trash cinema. To appreciate this film at all, you'll need a love of cheesy dialogue, bad dubbing, and complete lapses in logic.
For such a low-budget film, Troma's DVD package is impressive. The widescreen transfer contains numerous problems, with less than stellar black levels, and a lack of fine detail. That said: it's very possible these issues are a result of the visual style adopted by Rosas. The stereo soundtrack is similar, with a flat mix. Extras include an audio commentary, courtesy of writer/director Drew Rosas, deleted scenes, and a slideshow. For anyone interested in Rosas' earlier work, "Plastic Fangs," a fun short he made in 2005 is also included.
With Blood Junkie Rosas has revealed himself to be a jack-of-all-trades. To dismiss his work as mere imitation is to ignore the obvious craftsmanship he has put into this film. Indeed, one should really look at Rosas' decision to set his film in the Eighties as a stylistic decision only. Clearly he has a love for the period, and if that allows him to have some fun with his feature debut, then so be it. The fact remains that Blood Junkie is a heap of fun, and perfect late-night viewing.
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