Thursday, May 17, 2007

Scream, Blacula, Scream - review


Director: Bob Kelljan

Release Date: 1973

Contains spoilers

This was, unsurprisingly, the sequel to Blacula and proved to be the final outing for Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) or as he was better known Blacula. It proved to be a more serious outing than the original with a definite horror edge that was perhaps lacking in the first film. Of course, at the end of the first film Blacula was dead so we have to examine how he came back to fill the silver screen once more.

Pam Grier as LisaThe film begins with a funeral for a voodoo high priestess. She had failed to name a successor and so her son, Willis (Richard Lawson), believes he should be the new cult leader. It is clear, however, that a young woman Lisa (Pam Grier) is the preferred successor and it will come down to a vote.

voodoo ritual over Blacula's bonesMightily aggrieved Willis goes to see a deposed Voodoo leader named Ragman (Bernie Hamilton) who gives him power in the form of bones. Willis performs a ritual over them causing them to spark and burst into flames. In her own home Lisa sees something in her fire. Back at the ritual the flames die. Willis thinks he has failed and goes to another room not noticing the figure behind him until Blacula grabs him and bites.

William Marshall as BlaculaThe inclusion of voodoo with the vampire genre had, of course, been done before, notably in The Vampire’s Ghost. Crossing the vampire with black magic rites was not so unusual either. However this was, as far as I can tell, the first movie to actually specifically use voodoo to raise the vampire (I stand to be corrected).

Despite the addition of voodoo the story line is remarkably close to the first film. Blacula is a tortured soul and sets his sights on a woman. In the first film Tina was the reincarnation of his love Luva, this time it is Lisa though his motivation is not one of love but one of ending his suffering. Michael Conrad as Sheriff DunlopHe believes that Lisa’s voodoo can exorcise the evil within him. In the meantime he follows his baser urges and vampirises various folk, all of whom become vampires, whilst Lisa’s boyfriend and ex-detective Justin (Don Mitchell) tries to persuade the cops, in the form of Sheriff Dunlop (Michael Conrad), that there is a vampire on the loose.

Richard Lawson as WillisThe motivation might be different but the rest is eerily familiar. As I pointed out in my review, the first film was very much played for laughs but, whilst there are flashes of comedy such as Willis complaining that he can no longer see his reflection, this is much more seriously drawn.

This should actually be an improvement if it wasn’t for the fact that the film is actually a tad slow. There are some additional pieces of lore we come across, beyond the first film. A victim has bat hairs on him, but of a species unknown, and the victims (who will all rise as vampires) do not appear in crime scene photographs.

staking a vampireThe finale, with the cops and Justin raiding a mansion whilst Lisa tries to cure Blacula seemed a little silly in places. Each cop has a single stake and then they split up, so most of the unnamed officers are overcome by groups of vampires. Whilst the cannon fodder cops are doing poorly, Justin and Dunlop only seem to come across one vampire at a time leading to easy slays – lucky them.

Justin gets himself a crossbow eventually and discovers why they aren’t that good for close quarter melee – they simply take too long to reload. Luckily for him all the vampires he comes across seem to stumble around extremely slowly, making Romero’s zombies look like Olympic sprinters.

Blacula fetish dollActing wise Marshall is once again excellent as Blacula, displaying an air of sophistication and dignity that belies the rest of the film. Grier has very little to do, unfortunately, but her voodoo ritual at the end is extremely well done as she chants and sways over the fetish doll of Blacula she has constructed.

a victim risesThere are also some sloppy moments, for example after Willis’ mirror moan we then see Blacula’s reflection in a store front.

If you are a fan of the first film this is a worthwhile watch, but ultimately it is slow and does nothing really new. According to IMDB, the Count Dracula Society named the film the most terrifying film of the decade, which is really stretching credibility. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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