• Blood Beat

    Blood Beat
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 24th, 2017.
    Director: Fabrice A. Zaphiratos
    Cast: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Dana Day, James Fitzgibbons, Claudia Peyton
    Year: 1983
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Fabrice A. Zaphiratos (it’s a ‘Huskypup Film Productions, Inc’ release!), 1983’s Blood Beat is a film that is as strangely hypnotic as it is incomprehensible. Large parts of the picture make little to no sense, and the whole thing is fairly ludicrous, but it’s got that special something that makes low budget oddities like this as enthralling as they sometimes are.

    The story? Well, we’ll try. Wisconsin. 1983. It starts off with a guy hunting. This guy is Gary (Terry Brown) and kills a deer and brings it back to the house where his wife Cathy (Helen Benton) seems upset by it. He reminds her that she’s seen plenty of dead deer before, but it doesn’t matter. Shortly after this occurs their kids -Dolly (Dana Day) and Ted (James Fitzgibbons) - show up for the Christmas holidays with Ted’s girlfriend Sarah (Claudia Peyton) along for the ride. Sarah’s weirded out almost as soon as she arrives – there’s something up with Helen, they have a strange connection. This doesn’t stop Ted from getting her top off once they’re alone in the bedroom though.

    Shortly after their arrival, a family hunting trip takes a sinister turn when they find a dead guy in the woods. This turns out to be the first of a few grisly murders that take place – the cause? Some sort of ghost guy who wanders around in a traditional samurai outfit offing the locals. It might have something to do with the samurai armor found in a chest inside the family home. The closer the samurai gets to the family, the weird things get and before you know it Sarah is writhing in ecstasy in the bed as people are getting chopped up and Helen’s behavior becomes increasingly bizarre. Before it’s all over a bunch of people are dead and there’s some sort of ESP battle done with weird optical effects – but does it wind up making much sense? No, no it does not.

    But it’s weird enough that those who can appreciate the stranger, less traditional side of the slasher movie trend should get a kick out of it. But let’s be honest, this isn’t the most accessible film ever made. It is, for the first half at least, quite slow and while it does (sort of) resolve the story before the end credits hit we are left wondering what it is we just watched and why. To call the movie uneven would be an understatement but it’s got enough what-the-fuckery crammed into its eighty-five minutes to give it interest. Weird psycho-sexual shenanigans involving a way too cute brunette who may or may not be possessed by an evil spirit? Check. A ghost samurai guy who guts people with a sword? Check. A psychic battle that comes out of nowhere to bring everything to a close? Check. Throw in some wonky dialogue, questionable performances, strange effects and, yes, a genuinely cool looking villain (the movie would have been more effective if we’d have seen more of the killer samurai) and, well, this doesn’t exactly work but it is… something. We get a few good kills scenes here too, never a bad thing.

    Performances are weird. Well, everything about the movie is weird, but specifically the performances. James Fitzgibbons plays Ted fairly straight. Yeah, fine, he’s horny but so are a lot of us, you can’t hold that against him. He is, for the most part, an average dude. Claudia Peyton, as Ted’s cute younger sister, is also played fairly straight. She does scared and fragile well enough – and her character sure does get excited easily! It’s Helen Benton and Claudia Peyton that steal the show, however. Benton looks like Wisconsin’s answer to Shelly Duvall, she has the ‘Olive Oyl is a hippy’ look down and when the movie needs her to? She commits! The best example is her over the top work in the battle at the end where he face is twisted and turned into various strange and unpleasant looking expressions, but even in the film’s quieter moments she’s just got a weird screen presence. As to Peyton? She commits even more! When she’s writing around in orgasmic delight, we buy it. That gal looks like she’s having a grand old time. The fact that she’s got a specifically innocent/girl next door look to her helps too – you don’t expect what you get from her. Through in some rad supporting work from a fat guy with a moustache in a flannel shirt who basically just shows up to get murdered and, well, it’s a cast, that’s for sure.


    Blood Beat debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome on a 50GB disc with an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.33.1. There is a disclaimer before the movie starts stating that this has been restored in 4k from the original 35mm negative but that the elements were in rough shape due to mold and water damage and what not. With this in mind, the image actually looks remarkably good. Yes, there are spots where you can clearly see the damage that we’re warned about but it’s never as bad as you think it’ll be and honestly it isn’t even all that distracting. Print damage outside of that? It’s minimal. As to the rest of the transfer’s qualities, color reproduction is quite good, we get very nice black levels and there’s no obvious noise reduction here. The transfer is free of noticeable sharpening or edge enhancement and there are no noticeable compression artifacts. Detail varies a bit from scene to scene but it’s always good and occasionally outstanding. The elements for the end credits appear to have gone missing so Vinegar Syndrome has spliced these in from an inferior source, but it’s not a big deal and doesn’t affect anything outside of that end credits sequence.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio here is fine. Dialogue is clean, easy to follow and nicely balanced. The film’s score and wonky sound effects have pretty good presence and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with a commentary track with writer/director Fabrice Zaphiratos spoken in French and offered with optional English subtitles. He speaks about how and why he wound up in Wisconsin making a horror film, the meaning of the title of the film and how it made sense when he was high! He discusses his father’s work as co-producer, helping to finance the film, and also discusses what his vision was for the film and how the landscape shots in the introduction reflect this. He notes that he recently went back to the house where the movie was shot and that the kitchen hasn’t changed at all, and how so much of what was in the house had a mysterious appearance that suited the film. He’s fairly honest here about shots that work and shots that don’t work, the sound issues that he ran into during the shoot, and some of the effect used in the picture, noting that there’s a psychedelic aspect to them that would seem to be intentional on his part. As the track goes on he talks about the different cast members that he used in the picture, how one of the actresses was prone to crying, the use of ‘art’ in the film with the painting scenes, how a lot of people wore different hats on the shoot with his assistant also doubling as a makeup artist, how and why he wound up with a samurai costume, fan response to the picture and the feedback he continues to receive via email and Facebook, the fashions featured in the picture, the post production process and quite a bit more. Zaphiratos is pretty thorough – if you want the story behind the movie, this is the way to get it.

    Vinegar Syndrome has also provided an eighteen minute long video interview with Fabrice Zaphiratos
    conducted on July 31st, 2017. He gives us some background information, how he was born in Vietnam but moved to France at a young age and had a fairly typical middle class upbringing. He talks about his father’s work as a filmmaker, his love of ‘cinema fantastique’ that developed at a young age, the influence of science fiction culture on his work and his love of comic books. He then discusses ways that he’s been creative over the years, the importance of nature to his work, and then the reception that Blood Beat received when it played Cannes in 1982. He talks about how the film was sold, how it got a VHS release through his father’s distribution company, his thoughts on the film a few decades since it was made and then the film’s legacy. Zaphiratos also provides a quick seventeen second introduction to the feature in which he basically just introduces himself and says he made the movie.

    Up next is Shooting Blood Beat, an eighteen minute long video interview with Vladimir Van Maule who worked as the cinematographer on the film. He starts off with some background information, talking about how he moved from Czechoslovakia to Chicago at a young age and then got into filmmaking. He discusses how he came to work on Blood Beat, his first feature film, which they shot in Panavision on 35mm film. He tells some stories about working with Zaphiratos, how cultural differences came into play on their collaboration, shooting on location in Wisconsin with a small crew, how he feels about the film in hindsight, Zaphiratos’ penchant for doing some of the more dangerous stunts himself, the camaraderie that existed between the cast and crew over the eight week shoot, shooting most of the film chronologically, the differences and similarities between shooting on film and on digital and the importance of telling a good story.

    Also included on the disc is Blood Beast: The Silent Version which features “Nervous Curtains and Horror Remix.” This is basically a recut twenty-eight minute version of the movie set to some ambient and electronic music that sounds more akin to a traditional horror score than the music used in the feature presentation version of the film. It’s an interesting alternate version of the movie though it’s unlikely to ever replace the original version for anyone.

    L.U.N.C.H. is a short film written and directed by William Zaphiratos, the director’s son, that runs fourteen minutes in length. It’s set during the Second World War and it shows a bunch of soldiers playing cards as war rages around them. These men are surrounded and when the Germans attack it doesn’t go well. There’s a pretty fun twist here that we won’t spoil! It’s a decent little short film, though the constant CGI muzzle flare is way too artificial looking to work as well as it should.

    Outside of that we get a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork and, if you guy it direct from Vinegar Syndrome, the first few thousand copies come with a cool embossed slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Blood Beat is something else. What exactly that is? I don’t know. But it’s on Blu-ray in a feature-laden special edition with a great transfer. For some reason that’s very difficult to explain, this pleases me immensely. The Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome is outstanding – the picture quality is great despite the irreparable damage and the extras are extensive and impressive.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I have the VHSrip/DVD that was on Amazon and I'm really looking forward to the upgrade. It makes no sense that this film is getting Blu-ray release but it makes me so happy that it is. The slipcover looks amazing.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Yeah, needless to say the image quality on this absolutely destroys the old VHS rip. It's quite a revelation.