Monday, March 6, 2017

Census Bloodbath: Cannibal Run

For the Scream 101 episode about this film, click here.

Year: 1987
Director: Jackie Kong
Cast: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, Roger Dauer
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: Unrated

Is Blood Diner a slasher movie? No. Does it belong to any genre recognizable to the naked eye? Also no. But it contains a multitude of gory slayings (mostly one by one), a virginal survivor, and a pair of homicide detectives following the bloody trail of bodies, so it’s still fodder for Census Bloodbath. One of the few Bloodbath entries to be helmed by a female director (it joins the lonely pantheon of Slumber Party Massacre, Sorority House Massacre, and Home Sweet Home), Blood Diner doesn’t shy away from exploitation, but it’s a gregarious and winking kind of nudity that fits right into its horror-comedy tone.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Before we push on, let’s Meet the Meat!

Welcome back to Census Bloodbath!

In Blood Diner, brothers Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew) own a successful vegetarian diner on Hollywood Boulevard. What’s their secret? The food contains human body parts. The boys, guided by their undead Uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis) – who is now a brain in a jar - are part of an ancient cannibal cult, collecting body parts to assemble a perfect vessel for the resurrection of their goddess Sheetar. They will raise her at a ceremonial, cannibalistic black magic bacchanal, but first they need to kill the hottest babes in town to get the proper ingredients.

They also need a virgin to sacrifice, and Michael – the smarter and more charming of the two – has his eye on the lovely young cheerleader Connie Stanton (Lisa Elaina). The closer they get to the date of the ritual, the nearer draw their enemies: the competing veggie chef/ventriloquist Stan (Bob Loya), who wants to learn their secret recipe, and homicide detectives Sheba Jackson (Lanette La France), a hardnosed newcomer and Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer), a hairy-chested, medallioned Guido caricature.

Hey, I’m stalkin’ here!

Blood Diner is a low budget B picture, but it’s also very deliberately a horror-comedy. Which makes the spectrum of intentionality a very confusing thing to sort out. Luckily, it’s not in the vein of movies like ThanksKilling or Kung Fury, which set out to make a bad-good movie on purpose. Blood Diner is an earnest attempt to make a crazy, silly picture that exists within the horror genre while lightly lampooning it. That’s still a tangled web to unweave, but its intentions are pure, and that makes all the difference.

To properly assess Blood Diner, what we have to do is split the film’s humor into three camps. The first is that blissful bastion of the cult horror fan: unintentional hilarity. Blood Diner certainly hits that mark during some of its more ambitious special effects sequences, though the actual script seems to be entirely purposeful. Now that’s cleared out of the way, our second (and best) category is the clever skewering of genre tropes. Here is where the sexy victim is given her opportunity to escape… but returns to the scene of the crime to grab her purse. This is the category responsible for the film’s smartest, most genuinely satisfying jokes, like the “slutty” victim who turns out to know kung fu or the hilariously gratuitous nude aerobics class (OK, “smart” is a relative term – this is Census Bloodbath).

The third, most common category is Troma-esque humor: Juvenile, sophomoric, and totally uninhibited. Blood Diner drowns in bizarre, rapid-fire gags that run the gamut from vomit to Hitler impersonators to an irritating ventriloquist’s dummy. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this rude, crude approach to comedy, but enough of it tickled me that I’m on board. This category especially flourishes during the film’s many kills, which are madcap special effects extravaganzas that combine lunatic surrealism with gleefully gory excess.

I am not so strong a man that I do not weep with laughter when a wrestler dressed as Hitler is bitten on the leg and his blood spays the audience like a Shamu show.

When you’re in the hands of Blood Diner, you might not enjoy every second of the ride, but you’re guaranteed that around the next corner is something completely, delightfully unpredictable, a quality that I highly value in my 80’s horror. Sure, the acting is terrible (the boys coast on their good looks and mugging, but there is no excusing the artistic poison that is the buddy cop sequences) and the plot is incomprehensible, but it’s a hog-wild thrill ride that doesn’t give up until its requisite third act lull, which thankfully doesn’t last too long.

It’s like taking a shot of melted cotton candy. It tastes a little funky and it has no nutritional value, but your nerve endings light up like a Christmas tree. It’s a rush of pure, bonkers 80’s cinema and I sure am glad I gave it a look.

Killer: Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew)
Final Girl: I guess Connie Stanton (Lisa Elaina)
Best Kill: The competing diner owner Stan gets his hands chopped off and attempts to drive away while blood spurts all over his windshield from his stumps.
Sign of the Times: Every single character has a single George Michael earring. And the main characters are literally named George and Michael.
Scariest Moment: Sheetar is resurrected and her body sprouts a massive, toothed orifice.
Weirdest Moment: The plot veers into an extended interlude at a wrestling match.
Champion Dialogue: “He has been spotted in the West Side with a meat cleaver in one hand and his genitals in the other.”
Body Count: 11; not counting the incalculable masses slaughtered at a topless aerobics class and the third act bacchanal.
  1. Anwar Namtut is shot by the police.
  2. Gravekeeper is hit in the head with a shovel and his eyes pop out.
  3. Bouncer has his head crushed by a tire.
  4. Peg has her head fried and knocked off with a broom.
  5. Peg’s friend is cleavered in half.
  6. IRS Guy is killed offscreen.
  7. Biker is run over with a van.
  8. Kung Fu Slut is hit in the head with a stalactite.
  9. Stan has his hands chopped off and crashes his car into a mountain.
  10. Michael is shot.
  11. George is fed to Sheetar.
TL;DR: Blood Diner is a messy, incomprehensible, but utterly delightful absurd horror-comedy.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1071

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