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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>
It's great to see a low budget b-movie that actually looks and feels like a real B-movie! The genre has become so artificially popularized and 'fetishized' that most recent low budget films have seemed more like relatively capable ventures trying to 'appear' as b-movies. I always felt the overall cinematic incompetence of b-movies was a result of poor financial and technological resources available to the filmmaker. Today the idea of a consciously manipulated shaky digicam is considered to be 'low-tech'. How pretentious! Sorry, I just don't have the ability to reconcile the inherent academic quagmire of the high-tech/low-tech dichotomous relationship that is today's modern b-cinema. Any filmmaker can now pretend to be Orson Welles or Roger Corman rather than find himself forced to follow one or the other due to his vision and associated resources.
So how does this all preface a review of "Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter"? Well, here's a grungy little film that never finds a slick moment and something about that is really satisfying. The acting, camera-work, sound, editing, lighting, dubbing and just about every other cinematic component is raw and unrefined... and this is precisely the kind of film they intended to make! All the members of this film - director Demabre, writer Driscoll, the actors, the vampires, the zombies, the lesbians, the corpses, the atheists, the bystanders, the props, the locations - seem to be complicit in the joke. Everyone seems to be having a great time just trying to commit this crazy idea to film.
But should you actually see this film? If you grew up watching b-movies, and aged into understanding what the genre is all about, then you'll easily sink into this little bloodlust and likely soil yourself by the end credits. If you recently discovered b-movies because of some oblique connection to Quentin Tarantino and a brief sitting through the 'Blair Witch Project' you'll think it's far too low-brow and a waste of good film stock - not to mention being embarrassed in front of your beret-wearing, gitannes-smoking, art-house friends for seeing such a film.
"Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter" is a riot from beginning to end. Like many of it's great predecessors ("A Polish Vampire in Burbank" comes to mind) it's an ironic, creative, cliched genre experiment wrapped up in a consciously handicapped final package. Phil Caracas, who plays Jesus, has the kind of hardened gristled features we've seen on the faces of actors like Gary Oldman and Bruce Campbell. Like Campbell, Caracas never falters with his role - he remains in character and truly projects the necessary determined, single-minded missionary/militant slayer attitude throughout. This no-name actor is actually very good! Unlike Campbell though, Caracas only appears to be about 5'2" tall, but that somehow adds an even greater depth to his character's anger!
The kung-fu sequences are surprisingly well conceived and executed for such a film. The action is always hilarious and, as viewers, we're constantly aware that the actors are just barely fulfilling the required stunt choreography. One can imagine the director shouting, "Cut! That's good enough. We'll just have to go with that and fix it in editing!" But in this film even the editing phase is likely to be a clunky non-fix. Classic! Most memorable are the scenes of Jesus using drum sticks and pool cues to kill vampires in a jazz club, and a daylight vampire battle in a park where real families can be seen picknicking and playing in the background. A true b-movie cares not for silly protocol such as securing a proper location shoot!
Find this film... somewhere... watch it, and poop your pants!
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