Directed by: Jackie Kong
Written by: Michael Sonye
Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew & LaNette LaFrance
While reminiscing about video rental stores in my post about my local Blockbuster Video closing down, I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons why I loved visiting video stores when I was younger. While it was great to rent a couple of movies, sometimes it was just fun walking up and down the aisles looking at all of the great artwork on each movie box. Horror in particular had some rather eye-catching artwork, resulting in me renting numerous titles that helped shape my love of the genre. One title I came across early on was Jackie Kong’s horror-comedy Blood Diner, a somewhat remake to splatter legend Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast.
The film is about two brothers, Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew), who were brainwashed at a very young age by their serial killer uncle, Anwar (Drew Godderis), in setting out to resurrect an ancient Lumerian goddess, Sheetar (Tanya Papanicolas). Anwar’s plans were thwarted, and he was gunned down by the police. Several years later, the now adult Michael and George perform a ritual that brings Anwar back from the dead, though he is merely a brain and a set of eyes in a jar, who guides them in completing their task. The duo must collect body parts of women, sew them together and use it as an offering for Sheetar to return. The parts of the bodies from women that Michael and George don’t need get used as food for their vegetarian restaurant. Hot on their trail is Sheba Jackson (LaNette LaFrance) and Mark Sheppard (Roger Dauer), two inequitable detectives.
I was five years old when I started to get into horror films, and since most of them scared the living daylights out of me, Blood Diner was quite an odd experience. Sure, there were some pretty horrific things happening in the film; women getting butchered, a man getting his head crushed under the wheel of a car and a man being gunned down in front of children. But, Blood Diner isn’t a horror film as much as it’s a black comedy. Sure, many of the things happening in the film are gruesome, but they are done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that I hadn’t seen before when I first saw the movie.
Blood Diner quickly became one of my favorite horror films growing up, one that I enjoyed watching over and over again. It wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to watch the movie again, after losing touch with it for about twenty years. At the time that I was seeking a copy of the movie it wasn’t available on DVD here in America (though it is now, but only in a collection with a handful of other b-grade horror and sci-fi movies), so I had to settle on getting an old VHS copy.
Revisiting with a favorite film of your youth is always risky business. I used to be in love with Howard the Duck (I know… I know) as a child, but find it impossible to get through the damn thing in one sitting as an adult. So, I was a bit worried when I popped the clunky cassette copy of Blood Diner into my player a few years ago and hit play. Luckily, everything I thought I loved about the film remained the same. Its dark humor, over the top gore and eccentric characters still amount to a fantastic hidden gem of 80s horror.
Aside from the outlandish death scenes scattered throughout the film, Blood Diner succeeds because of its two central actors, Rick Burks and Carl Crew. Despite all of their murderous deeds, the Tutman brothers are a pair of charismatic individuals, which shines through due to the charming nature of Burks and Crew. There is something enjoyable about the over the top way the two murder people, especially with how much fun the two are having while doing so.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up during the 80s, but I find that many of my favorite oddball horror films come from that era. Blood Diner is one of the most unusual, but highly enjoyable horror films you could ever experience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows how to have fun with its bizarre premise, all while offering a bloody good (and hilarious) time.