Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blood & Donuts – review


Directed by: Holly Dale

Release Date: 1995

Contains spoilers

Blood & Donuts is quirky, that is the best one word sum up I could come up with for the movie and, as we explore it, I hope you’ll see why. A lesser known Canadian film it is not really a horror film and more an off-beat comedy. It also cameo’s David Cronenberg, whose directorial work we looked at briefly when I reviewed Rabid.

The film begins with footage of the first moon landing and then the legend appears that in 1969, when man first walked on the moon, Goya (Gordon Currie) crawled into a bag. We cut forward in time and see local gangster Stephen (David Cronenberg) hitting golf balls from a rooftop. This is interspersed by the credits. One of those golf balls is shot into an old warehouse and, causing a crash, wakes Goya.

Gordon Currie as GoyaGoya wakes from his slumbers with his hair matted and his fingernails grown very long – these he breaks off by hand. I took the fingernails as a nod to the old tradition of nails continuing to grow on a corpse revealing the vampire. He re-enters the mortal realm, a vampire who does not like to bite mortals and thus likes to feed on rats etc. I think at this point, rather than go through the opening plot it will be better to go through the characters – the reason will become apparent.

intervening with humanityGoya is odd, and that oddness is brilliantly portrayed by Currie, who appeared in a season 2 episode of Forever Knight. He does not quite fit in with humanity and yet has an endearing charm. He is obsessed by the moon (and caries the golf ball that awoke him as an obvious lunar symbol) and one of his reasons for sleeping seems to be the moon landing as he thought humanity were going to spoil the moon.

vamp faceThe vampiric lore includes burning in sunlight (direct, he can stand a small amount of indirect) and his face twisting into a demonic vampire face at times. His eyes turn red. He dislikes feeding on humans and refuses to turn them. Despite wishing to be apart from the world he cannot help but have an effect on those around him.

The first character to be aware of him is his ex-girlfriend Rita (Fiona Reid). He has been away for twenty five years but, in a loss of control, bit her before withdrawing from the world. This gives her a link to Goya and she feels his awakening. She becomes a stalker, upset at the loss of her youth and not understanding why he wouldn’t turn her. Through her we discover that a stake through the heart does not work on Goya.

Helene Clarkson as MollyWe meet Molly (Helene Clarkson), who works in the all night donut shop hinted at in the title. She and Goya fall in love through the film, despite Goya’s reticence to become involved. This love story line was perhaps underdeveloped as the film went along and needed to be stronger.

Justin Louis as EarlOne of Molly’s regular customers is taxi driver Earl (Justin Louis) who is forced, against he will, to act as a driver for a couple of Stephen’s gangster thugs, Pierce (Frank Moore) and Axel (Hadley Kay). When he lets them down they decide to give him a beating, which Goya intervenes in. Goya then becomes Earl’s guardian. I was not convinced by the accent that Louis used, I am suspecting, however, that it would have meant something to a Canadian audience.

Axel and PierceThe thugs themselves become quickly convinced that something is very wrong with Goya. Pierce is the more experienced and Moore, who played him, had a lead role in the earlier Rabid. Axel is more like an apprentice who is underappreciated by the boss, Stephen.

David Cronenburg as StephenStephen himself is a cameo role but Cronenberg lifts the film with his presence. He is also the source of the full circle the film takes us in. However, the film’s actual plot is thin. This is a character driven film and those characters drive it with their quirkiness and off beat nature.

This is the main shame of the film. I have nothing against character driven films – indeed many films are too lacking in character. Yet the actual plot feels thin and doesn’t really go anywhere – thus it is ultimately a little disappointing. The characterisations do lift the film above the average of the genre but with a stronger plot it could have been a classic.

The soundtrack is fantastic and the film looks lovely within its own quirky framework. Worth watching as a gentle, offbeat comedy – bearing in mind the limitations. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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