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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 DAYS OF HORROR 22014-Day 21: BLOOD DINER (1987)

Is the world ready for the return of the evil goddess Shetar?

When crazed serial killer Anwar Namtut (Drew Godderis) is gunned down by the authorities, his quest to resurrect the ancient Lumerian goddess Shetar comes to an abrupt halt while witnessed by his young nephews. Years later the boys, Michael (Rick Burks) and George (Carl Crew), dig up their beloved uncle's grave and stash his brain and eyes in a jar, from which he guides them in finishing his plan for his dark goddess's return to this mortal plane. Now the co-proprietors of a popular vegetarian diner, Michael and George go about at night kidnapping and dismembering young women to harvest ideal body parts and assemble them into Shetar's new body, serving up the remainders as cleverly disguised veggie fare. As the police conduct an ineffectual investigation and Shetar's body nears completion, all that remains is the virgin sacrifice that will imbue the patchwork deity with life...

If this all sounds somewhat familiar, it should, provided the viewer has seen Herschell Gordon Lewis's seminal (sanguine?) splatter opus, BLOOD FEAST (1963). The basic plots are the same — attempted resurrection of an ancient goddess via gory limb-harvesting and a ritual cannibalistic feast — but the key differences between BLOOD FEAST and BLOOD DINER have everything to do with the execution. BLOOD DINER, made twenty-four years after its blood-drenched template, displays a level of creative competence that is light years ahead of Lewis's effort. The craftsmanship both behind and in front of the camera is terrific and displays a signature '80's look and feel, the performances are all letter-perfect, and the approach finds its rich flavor via the deployment of intentional and very, very funny black comedy. The film is loaded with anarchic humor, much of it of the laugh-out-loud variety, yet the narrative never once loses its nasty edge of dismemberment, cannibalism, and idolatry of a blasphemous entity.

Uncle Anwar, moments before his high-caliber ventilation...

...and years later, as a mentoring disembodied brain.

As for the film's gore content, there's plenty to go around but while undeniably gruesome, what we get is over-the-top to the point of absurdity and not at all potentially nauseating. It's all amusingly silly, especially a memorable bit involving a topless woman's head being battered and deep-fried so that it becomes an over-sized hush puppy, and my favorite moment in the entire film, namely when an obnoxious weed of a doorman attempts to deny the homicidal brothers entry to the most '80's-style dance club imaginable. The doorman makes the fatal error of pissing off George — who, in a sub-plot, is an aspiring professional wrestler — which swiftly finds the bouncer pitched headfirst into the path of an oncoming and bouncing low-rider car (whose horn proudly blares "La Cucaracha") that squashes his head like a week-old cantaloupe. Upon seeing the doorman's obvious demise, the club's meathead bouncer asks the doorman if he's okay.

Now, THAT'S comedy!

If you missed BLOOD DINER when it came out, it's absolutely worth seeking out now, especially if you're familiar with BLOOD FEAST, though knowledge of Lewis's groundbreaking splatter-fest is not a prerequisite. Look at it this way: BLOOD DINER is pretty much what you'd get if master macabre cartoonist Gahan Wilson might come up with if he were allowed to craft an uncensored sitcom. What's not to like about that?

Poster from the film's brief theatrical release.

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