Directed by: Holly Dale
Written by: Andrew Rai Berzins
Produced by: Steven Hoban
Reviewed by: Brett H.
“Remember, Boya? Remember the night they walked on the moon? Oh, God, it was so exciting; everybody was so happy. Except you. There you were, all alone in the corner. You said, ‘they’ve ruined it…’”
The vampire subgenre has cemented its legacy in the world of horror cinema to an extent that arguably can’t be matched by any other. It isn’t easy to contend with such masterpieces as Nosferatu, Dracula, Horror of Dracula and for us children of the 80s, The Lost Boys and Near Dark. Generally vampire movies are very similar in tone, gothic and sexy with an eternally damned being lusting for the blood of virgins. Although many are creative and certainly entertaining in their own ways, few go beyond the traditional realm of the vampire lore. It’s not to say it hasn’t been done with great results (Blood For Dracula comes to mind), but generally there are many fewer effective vampire chillers when the normal handling of the subject is altered. Blood & Donuts radically changes the traditional structure of the vampire film and propels it with a distinct Canadian influence and comedic effect.
The film opens with footage from one of the most unique moments in the history of mankind, Neil Armstrong’s famous moonwalk. In 1969 Man walked on the moon and Boya crawled into a bag. Mister Sandman starts to play as a man begins banging some golf balls about, one of them busting through a window and starting a chain reaction that brings down something from the rafters of the building. A vampire, Boya (Gordon Currie) crawls out of a bag (accompanied by a newspaper proclaiming man has walked on the moon). More than a little stiff after a quarter century slumber, Boya stumbles out of the seemingly abandoned building and heads for the cemetery. On the way he meets future friend and cabbie, Earl (Justin Louis), who notices something strange about him, but thinks nothing too much of it. Boya hands him a $20 bill, in 60s Canadian currency, to cover the tab. He digs up his hidden possessions and goes into the streets of Toronto to find himself a place to stay. He finds his slum and after passing on what would be an easy dine on a man using a walker (fast food for a vampire?), he chooses to drink the blood of a rat instead.
Boya isn’t a normal vampire. He’s philosophic, sweet, sensitive and mentally not interested in taking a human life for food. He makes a trip to a local rundown donut shop and meets Molly (Helene Clarkson), asking if she knows any place that sells fresh liver. The French cabbie who picked him up earlier happens to be a regular at this place, and is smitten with Molly, although in time she takes a shine to Boya and vice versa. Earl appears to be a very nice person, but something he’s done in his past haunts him. Local thugs are after him for reasons unknown and make his life a living hell. Boya makes Earl’s life easier by protecting him from the thugs and their leader (David Cronenberg), but in the meantime he must struggle with the cards he’s been dealt. Boya doesn’t want to be a vampire and fights his urges to drink the blood of the living much the same way an addict would struggle to kick their habit.
As unique as a vampire film can get, Blood & Donuts proves to be an experience all in its own. Rather than focusing on a body count or gothic tones, much of the film is spent building characters and the primary concern is Boya’s struggle. Imagine having the power to seduce any woman you wanted and possessing eternal life, never aging. Now imagine having to spend every day of your life fighting these urges back and maintaining an outlook on life that deals with everyone being important, everyone counting and trying to be positive in every respect. Many people Boya encounters would kill to have what he has, and yet he’d kill himself to be rid of the torment weighing down his heart every day. The film works so well because the main characters are the stereotypical Canadian; good at heart, and these are people you can genuinely feel for. Sure, the acting is a bit here and there in some parts and some of the plot is a tad rough around the edges, but the film has a soul that has rarely... if ever, been achieved in a vampire film.
Boya’s character has the great qualities of being both badass and loving. He is inhuman in species, but is human at heart and when push comes to shove, Earl’s enemies are easily intimated by his strength; not to mention his mean vampire look, which is more reminiscent of a movie like The Lost Boys rather than Dracula. Boya suffers his slip-ups too, performing a sort of psychic session of lovemaking to his interest, Molly, who dreams he is making love to her and here it takes cue from the traditional vampire tale; he’s a real lady killer. This essentially entices Molly to want to become a vampire, which Boya has dealt with in the past in the form of past love, Rita. Unlike Rita, Molly appears to have real feelings for Boya. Twenty-five years after Boya went into hiding, Rita still wishes to be forever young. It’s nicely portrayed and probably works more given the fact that a female directed the film. Like An American Werewolf in London before it, Blood & Donuts uses popular songs like Blue Moon, Twilight Time and I Put a Spell on You, and it adds to the experience.
Blood & Donuts is considered a horror/comedy in some circles, although I think it’s a tad misleading. It’s chuckle inducing for sure (one scene involving Earl and his deceased pet dog is laugh out loud funny), but it’s not a label I would slap the film with. One scene in particular is really humorous: Rita impales Boya with a long shard and he rips it out of his body and informs her not to believe everything she hears. But really, it’s an artsy horror film with even the ending keeping very true to this nature. The bond between outcasts Boya and Earl is both heart wrenching and heart warming depending on the scene. Bisexualism is touched upon in very lightly, especially in a scene involving David Cronenberg’s character. The cinematography is decent, but it’s mostly the dialogue and script that you’ll be paying attention to, and there are a couple moody scenes set in a graveyard to bring some gothic flair to the picture.
Shot in Toronto, there are some scenes of the landscape and any money in the film is in Canadian funds. The run-down donut shop is no Timmy’s, but the film features many Canadian actors that have been in many genre and television works. David Cronenberg’s involvement allows a whole new generation of Canadian filmmakers instant credibility with his presence, once again proving his loyalty to the country. One instance of dialogue from his character certainly pertains to himself as a filmmaker, as he tells his thugs, “...you do not make a mark in this world by letting people walk all over you.” After being the martyr of outrage and all that is bad in film by many Canadian critics stemming from his Canadian horror “atrocities” (now classics), Shivers and Rabid, it’s more than a little true. Released on a full frame DVD exclusively in Canada by Seville, it’s not hard for anyone to track this down. The DVD is VHS quality, maybe a tad better and features a decent 2.0 track that compliments the film nicely. The cover art portrays the film much better than the VHS version, but sadly, there are no special features. If you’re looking for a very Canadian horror film, or more importantly to most, a thought provoking twist on the usual vampire fare, sink your teeth into the drippy goodness of Blood & Donuts. Buy it!
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