Blood Diner

Director: Jackie Kong 
Rick Burks, Carl Crew, Roger Dauer

Long time readers of The Unknown Movies - or recent discoverers of the web site who have crammed in the reading of many of the reviews on the web site in a short period of time - will almost certainly have gotten some idea of what kind of person I am in real life. For starters, they have probably concluded with confidence that I am a man who sure likes exploitation in his movies, and they would indeed be right. And from that conclusion, these people would probably be able to make another conclusion, and that I have a wicked sense of humor. They would be right again. If one can be tickled by various kinds of mayhem and grossness, then it stands that that person can find comedy in just about everything. I try to exercise my sense of humor on a regular basis. Not only do I push myself to write humor in my movie reviews, I try to find the lighter side in many other aspects of my life. Though of course the thing I do most of all to find a laugh, chuckle, or a smile is to watch movies that will provoke such emotions. Anyway, I want to talk about the different kinds of humor that I usually find funny - and some that I usually don't find funny. One kind of humor I frequently find funny is situations I can identify with. Seeing someone on the silver screen struggle at work with a difficult boss or pushy customers often makes me smile, because I have gone through those things myself. Another kind of humor that I find funny is seriousness in the face of absurdity. Seeing these situations, I often cannot help but laugh, because I know I would freak out if I were in the situation myself in real life.

I'm not saying that those comic scenarios I mentioned in the above paragraph always deliver laughs for me, but their batting averages are overall pretty high. Certainly higher than some other kinds of movie humor I have sampled over the years. One kind of movie humor that's become more prevalent in recent years that I don't usually find funny is stoner humor. The reason I usually don't find it funny is that the drugs the stoner characters make them stupid. And I find stupid characters more often than not to be infuriating rather than funny. I think that another reason why I don't like stoner movies is that when I see people with their whole lives in front of them indulging in brain-numbing and dumbing down drug activity, quite frankly I get quite depressed and wonder if the youth of a generation from now will be even stupider and more irresponsible. Another kind of humor that I don't often find to be that funny is camp. Not unintentional camp - that I often find funny - but deliberate camp. I have to admit that years ago, that wasn't the case. When I was a teenager, I watched Troma Films' The Toxic Avenger, and I found it hysterical. And a number of years ago, I watched and reviewed Troma Films' Troma's War, and I wrote a positive review of it. But in the years that have passed since I reviewed that deliberate camp movie, my viewpoint of movies doing deliberate camp has changed. A few years ago I rewatched The Toxic Avenger, and I found it kind of clunky and very forced. The more recent movies from Troma (like Citizen Toxie) I have found to be tough to watch, and the feeling I get from these recent movies is that the filmmakers were trying w-a-y too hard to milk laughs from their outrageous situations.

Why has my opinion of deliberate camp changed over the years? Well, I am not one hundred percent sure, but I have one possible theory in my mind. Over the years, I have heard several times that as people get older, they don't become more liberal despite society around them becoming more liberal year after year. Instead, they become more conservative. I concluded that Blood Dinerdeliberate camp may be something more for the young than older people. Of course, that thought shook me up somewhat when it went through my mind. I don't want to think that I'm old - I still want to feel young. So I decided to take another look at a deliberately campy movie that tickled me greatly when I was much younger, that movie being Blood Diner. Though my approach to it this new time was somewhat more hesitant than my first time, because over the years I learned that its director, one Jackie Kong, had directed bombs like Night Patrol and The Being. Would seeing the movie again, this time with new eyes, make it look as bad as those other movies of hers? Before I get into that, the plot. The events of the movie center on the Tutman brothers, Michael (played by Rick Burks) and George (played by Carl Crew). When the brothers were children in the '60s, they were one day visited by their uncle Anwar, in the middle of his fleeing from the authorities after massacring an all-female glee club with a meat cleaver. Just before the authorities reach him and gun him down, Anwar gets his nephews to swear they will keep studying the lessons he's been teaching them - cooking, black magic, and the ancient Lumerian goddess Sheetar. Flash forward to twenty years later, and the now grown up Michael and George are still keeping up their lessons. After digging up the corpse of their uncle, they use their black magic skills to resurrect his brain, which commands them to resurrect the Lumerian goddess Sheetar. This involves killing a lot of people and assembling the best body parts for a traditional Lumerian feast, stitching some of the body parts together a la Frankenstein for a body that the resurrected Sheetar will inhabit. They also use their skills in cooking at the restaurant they own to use the leftover body parts in the various dishes they serve to customers, which become very popular. As the body count starts piling up, two detectives (played by LaNette La France and Roger Dauer) start investigating, but will they find who are behind the murders before the brothers finish assembling the corpse and find a virgin to sacrifice in order to bring Sheetar into our world again?

According to information I uncovered during research, Blood Diner was originally written to be a sequel to the notorious Herschell Gordon Lewis movie Blood Feast. But for reasons I couldn't uncover, the screenplay was altered just before shooting started so the movie could stand alone from Lewis' movie. Despite this, both movies have some strong similarities. If you've seen Blood Feast, no doubt you recognize from Blood Diner's plot description in the previous paragraph the plot elements of (among other things) villains in the food industry wanting to resurrect a god by killing people and gathering the victims' body parts for an intended resurrection ceremony. But there are also differences between the two movies. One of these differences is with depicting scenes of bloody slaughter. Certainly both movies depict such scenes, but I think that even Lewis himself would be slack-jawed by how Blood Diner not only has much more scenes of graphic slaughter, but that the graphic slaughter and mayhem is at times much more explicit than anything Lewis could have done in his prime. The depiction of blood in this movie, for one thing, looks more convincing than what was displayed in Lewis' movie. And as I said, there is a lot more bloody and/or violent material in Blood Diner than what we got to see in Blood Feast. Among the various and explicit violent scenes on display, we get to see a guy's hands get chopped off, a group of half a dozen or so women getting machine gunned down and various parts of their corpses sliced off afterwards, a woman is forced head first into a restaurant kitchen fryer, a couple of people are run over in the city streets by vehicles, and one unfortunate woman is cut into two from top to bottom.

By what I described in the previous paragraph, some people reading this may be lead to believe that Blood Diner is more often than not a grim experience. Actually, that is not the case, which leads me to point out another difference between this movie and Blood Feast. Blood Diner is executed with a lot of humor. Now, Lewis' Blood Feast was indeed done in a tongue in cheek style, though this angle was so subtle that many audiences and critics at the time didn't see it. But with Blood Diner, the humor is laid on quite thick so that there is no way anyone in the audience will feel that they are to take the events of the movie in any way seriously. Let me further describe the scenes of slaughter I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The man whose hands are cut off happens to make his way to his car, and after the chops he tries to steer his car with the remaining parts of his arms while blood is squirting on his windshield. The woman whose head is stuffed down the restaurant kitchen fryer previously had her face covered with batter, resulting in her head having a crispy edible coating when she pulls her head out. The group of women who are machine gunned down all happen to be practicing aerobics at the time, all of them doing their workout while topless. That last scene of slaughter that I described happens to be another example of how Blood Diner improves on Blood Feast - nudity. If I recall correctly, Blood Feast just had a very brief sequence of nudity. Blood Diner, on the other hand, has a good number of scenes of women in various stages of undress. All of this nudity by itself is welcome, but it more often than not is presented in a way that is such blatant exploitation that you can't believe that a woman directed the movie. I must confess that there was one particular nude sequence that proved especially pleasing for me. That scene was a totally naked woman doing martial arts. I can't tell you how long I have been waiting to see a B movie stage such a sequence.

As you can see from what I have told you up to this point, Blood Diner is a extremely gory and violent movie that also chooses to be deliberately campy. But is it one of those rare deliberately campy movies that is actually funny? I can't speak for everyone, but I must admit that I found the movie to be as amusing as it was years ago when I first saw it. Having said that deliberate camp in movies almost always fails, there is the question as to why in this particular movie it works. Well, after seeing the movie and thinking about it for some time afterwards, I think I know the reason why - or rather, reasons why. The first reason is that the movie is full of energy. If you think about it, the best movie comedies have a big spark to them, a spark that constantly pumps energy into the enterprise and keeps you at attention and watching throughout. The second reason comes from both the talent in front of the camera and behind the camera - a feeling of enthusiasm from everybody involved. Sure, the movie may have some shabby production values here and there, and the entire enterprise at times feels loose and sloppy, but everyone from the director to the actors seems to give off a joyful vibe from their various contributions to the movie. The enthusiasm by everybody is so great that you end up embracing everything about the movie, even the negative material, because it's been made with love. Blood Diner is a treat for B-movie fans with a taste for tastelessness, with its graphic gore, ample nudity, and its sick but hilarious sense of humor. While I certainly enjoyed the movie for those reasons, there was also another reason why I'm glad I saw it again. My enjoyment of this deliberately campy movie erased those fears I talked about earlier in this review, fears that I was getting old and losing my sense of humor. There's still a youngster in this aging body.

(Posted December 30, 2016)

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See also: Dr. Caligari, Savage Instinct, Troma's War