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The first testament says "an eye for an eye." The second testament says "love thy neighbour." The third testament KICKS ASS! The filmmaking team that brought you Harry Knuckles and won the "Spirit of Slamdance" prize with Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy ups the ante with this tale of the ultimate action hero: Jesus Christ. The second coming is upon us, and Jesus has returned to earth. But before he can get down to the serious business of judging the living and the dead, he has to contend with an army of vampires that can walk in the daylight. Combining kung-fu action with biblical prophecy and a liberal dose of humour, the film teams the Savior with Mexican wrestling hero El Santos against mythological horrors and science gone mad, and also manages to address contemporary sexual politics. And did we mention that it's a musical? This sure ain't Sunday School. Written by
Lee Demarbre <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Is that you, bowl of cherries?
Do bowls of cherries talk, Jesus?
I don't know. I've seen a lot of strange things over the years.
You need help, Jesus, and I will not forsake it.
Ohh, it's you Dad. So what's your advice?
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Cheerfully cheap and good naturedly blasphemous, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is blessed with a once in a lifetime title which makes it irresistible. It is also the first feature-length film by Lee Demarbre, a Canadian director and stars his favourite actor-friend: Phil Caracas, the lead of the director's previous two shorter works, based around the character 'Harry Knuckles'. Caracas has since appeared in a more diffuse second feature by Demarbre, the cunningly named Harry Knuckles And The Pearl Necklace (2004), and presumably will also be seen in his upcoming 'Black Kissinger'.
Described as a "kung-fu action / comedy / horror / musical about the second coming" Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter delivers in varying degrees on all these points, with the good Lord punching out, and then staking out, vampires, this while making with biblical wit, coping with gory attacks from body parts as well as finding time for the odd musical number. The film starts with a rising babble of voices, "Are you there, God? Give me a sign! Let me know you care!" - to which the following narrative provides a playful answer: yes He is there, out drop kicking evil doers, in holy robes, socks and trainers on the dangerous streets of Ottawa. Not before an intro from a bearded prophet though, (unnamed but with echoes of John The Baptist) who draws our attention to the significance of what we will shortly behold, an attempt to fill "the empty house of the soul." Exactly what the prophet has in mind by way of further enlightenment is vague, but without further ado we are plunged into the first vampire attack. In modern times vampires have come on apace since their more traditional forebears, and can now venture out in the daylight. Just as important is the fact that, in this film at least, they only seek out fellow lesbians.
Naturally, this scourge alarms the church, and two clerics are dispatched to fetch the only man who can save the situation - Jesus Christ, found in characteristic baptismal pose at the seashore. Shortly after the Lord offers them refreshment in an exchange recalling loaves and fishes ("Lemonade?" / "Will there be enough?" / "Oh there will be plenty"), lesbian vampires attack them. A first bout of kung fu ensues and Jesus duly shows his mettle. After this temporary setback, and to a books-of-the-Bible countdown, the Lord promptly climbs aboard his scooter and heads back to the city for a haircut, ear piercing, change of clothes and to challenge the forces of evil. Soon he sings a song, in echo of the original entry into Jerusalem (here on a skateboard), encounters his first helper - the curvaceous Mary Magnum, and hears the voice of God speaking from a bowl of cherry ice cream...
Filmed an a minuscule budget, and designed as a gentle parody rather than anything more offensive, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter largely succeeds because of the brisk editing, novelty of conception and the unpretentious involvement of all concerned. No one will pretend that the acting is anything but than rudimentary or that action scenes are not roughly choreographed. But the fun is the thing. Evil in Ottawa eventually takes many forms, including bloody criminal mastermind Johnny Golgotha, the dreaded 'kung-fu atheists' and bars full of vampires - variables dictated one suspects by the pool of talent on hand during any given day. Demarbre has a weakness for martial arts and in themselves Jesus' fights, being just that little bit slow and off the mark, are amusing spoofs of more sophisticated action films. With this challenge in mind, perhaps sensing that the Lord needs some support in the second half, writer-director Demarbre has Christ call on an ally, the famous Mexican wrestling legend Santo (well, okay, not the real celebrity, just a fat guy in a mask). One standout scene features the two, battling vampires in the aptly named Dominion bar. Taking place just after a less than inspirational performance by entertainer Blind Johnny Leper, this battle utilises such disparate items as crutches, billiard cues, and even cocktail sticks as stakes necessary to finish the job.
Foes eventually defeated, Jesus of course confirms matters with a sermon, that "it's the message that's the point, not the messenger" and indeed this salient point might well underline much of the film's success. That one doesn't need an officially approved Christ to make moral points about coping with evil... or, come to that, a hundred million dollars and CGI to make an entertaining movie. (See also: UltraChrist if you liked this one)
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