[Calgary Underground Film Festival] Blood & Donuts (1995) - reviewed

When a rogue golf ball lands and kicks a vampire out of a 25 year hibernation we find ourselves plunged into 1995. This is the world of Boya, a charismatic born again humanist vamp. His reawakening involves dealing with local gangsters, an affable bumbling taxi driver with a questionable accent, his ex, and his burgeoning feelings for the girl who works behind the counter at his favorite evening haunt. The donut shop.

Blood & Donuts was the first film to be produced by the Canadian film centre, but it ended up being one of many features to come out of the surge of films being produced in Canada during the '90s. Today it is well known that the cost of shooting in this region is the lure for many directors looking to capitalize on tax legislation and labor laws. The only stipulation to qualify for this tax credit loop-hole, is that either the director or the screenwriter and one of the two highest paid actors must be Canadian.

Enter Canadian director Holly Dash, who ventured away from her usual repertoire of documentary films and called upon ‘body horror originator’ David Cronenberg to bust out his acting chops and give us an understated yet memorable performance as the villain of the piece. With a cold and quietly sinister expression he delivers the line of the film:

“You do not leave a mark in this world by letting people walk all over you.”

Dash has since gone on to direct mostly television, amassing a high profile CV and 200 hours of US network and cable television under her belt with guest directing spots on Dexter, The X-Files, Law and Order, Cold case and Heroes to name a few. She has received many accolades for her work over the last twenty-five years, and continues to direct as one of the most recognized names in Hollywood.

Blood & Donuts falls into the category of films that divided audiences around the time of its original release, and is now being hailed as a cult classic under the nostalgic haze of '90s fever. The romance with this era has been well and truly rekindled across all mediums; fashion, film, music and pop culture of the time. This film emanates an iconic vibe for this reason. I think that is also why it is so impossible to dislike.

In fact a cult following has ensued. It’s been dubbed a comedy horror, but I don’t think it fits neatly into any genre. I would put it in the same category as The Breakfast Club, Ghost World, Near Dark and Lost Boys in terms of its feel and cinematography. If you’re a horror aficionado this is one to tick off the list. The story by itself is fairly predictable, but it’s the characters that bring in its unique quality. I can hear critics saying that the acting is off and the dialogue is clunky, but I feel like the fact that it’s a bit off is part of the comedic value. It certainly made it so for me. Highlights included; Earl the cab drivers accent (is he Christopher Walken incarnate?), the hilariously dubbed screams and any scene where Goya is trying to pass himself off as a normal human being when talking to Molly. You’re not fooling anyone mate.

It has everything you could want from a classic 90s vampire horror movie. I think if you go into it with no expectations other than to be taken back in time and immersed in this indulgent and sometimes hilarious vampire romp you will be not be disappointed. And that is exactly what is on offer here. A classic film score, an iconic look, quirky, sexy and yet attainable characters who have mundane conversations in coffee shops and muse over their problems like the rest of us. I couldn’t do this film justice if I didn’t mention the bathtub scene. There are no words. Like everything else I could say about Blood & Donuts , you just have to see it for yourself. And thank me later. 

Blood & Donuts screened at CUFF.

-Erin Ring