Monday, October 19, 2020

Census Bloodbath: Twin-sanity

Year: 1982
Director: Alberto De Martino
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Penelope Milford, Geraldine Fitzgerald 
Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Blood Link is an early 80's slasher made by Italians, which a stone cold horror scholar could have sniffed out just from the poster, which borrows heavily from the poster for the same year's The New York Ripper, and by borrows heavily I mean wholesale steals the entire image except for Michael Moriarty's face shoved in there at the bottom. That kind of brazen thievery bears the distinct markings of the Italian horror producers of the late 20th century (the same group of people who, you might remember, advertised Twitch of the Death Nerve as The Last House on the Left Part 2 even though it came out several years before Last House).

You can also tell from the fact that every female character takes her top off at some point in the movie.

In Blood Link, Dr. Craig Mannings (Michael Moriarty) is living his best life, building an experimental therapy practice with his girlfriend who he refuses to marry, Dr. Julie Warren (Penelope Milford). Unfortunately this revolutionary new therapy (which involves electrocuting people through acupuncture needles - neat!) has unlocked a part of his brain and he can now occasionally see through the eyes of his long-lost conjoined twin brother Keith (Michael Moriarty). Wouldn't you know it, but this twin is a bit evil, and has been wandering around Germany murdering women for who knows how long.

He heads off to Europe to see if he can't drag his twin back to the states to get help, but becomes mixed up in his twin's evil schemes, because having the same face as somebody who has been murdering people in broad daylight is a little bit of a liability. He arrives just as a case of mistaken identity has thrown Keith into the path of Craig's former patient, prizefighter Bud Waldo (Cameron Mitchell of Memorial Valley Massacre, Terror Night, Without Warning, Blood and Black Lace, Silent Scream, and The Demon, phew) and his daughter Christine (Sarah Langenfeld).

Plus we get a whole bunch of shots straight out of The Parent Trap.

Blood Link very clearly wants to be an elegant early-70's style giallo like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but it's missing one key element: Dario Argento. His early work was just as nasty-minded and misogynistic as this movie is, but he at least presented it with style and panache. Alberto De Martino wouldn't know panache if it sprayed blood all over his fish tank. 

Sure, he gets a few cracks in at some pretty shots (it's very nice whenever the camera peers up into the mirrored ceiling of a prostitute's room, and there's one solid shot of the aforementioned fish tank lighting up an artfully arranged corpse), and Ennio Morricone's lush score makes a solid effort to class up the proceedings (minus the moments when the titular blood link is activated, which just sounds like a telegram coming in). But Blood Link is just plain nasty - cruel and gross in all the wrong ways.

I'm not saying that the slasher genre isn't built on the backbone of objectifying then murdering women, but rarely has that approach been so cut and dry, converting the already unsubtle subtext of phallic knife slayings into out-and-out text with clunky dialogue about Keith's impotence that it tries to gussy up with lots and lots of pointless philosophizing about twins. It has nothing to say, it just knows it needs to fill up the scenes between uncomfortable rapey menacing of women with something.

It's not scary other than when you're contemplating who out in the world would actually find this entertaining (the climax of the movie is a rape scene in a park, which should show you how little interest this has in really being a psychological horror film), and it's certainly not fun. It's just... unpleasant.

Meanwhile, Michael Moriarty continues to fuck his way across Europe like a regular Robert Langdon.

It doesn't even have the decency to at least spruce up the murder scenes with fun special effects. No, just a lot of grunting and stabbing in the back, and moving right along. And Michael Moriarty does not provide a fun presence to spend 100 minutes with. He might be playing two characters, but he's giving about half a performance between them. Every line spoken by Craig is spoken in a miserable monotone like Ross saying "hi..." in the pilot episode of Friends, and Keith is mostly performed the same except for the random moments where he becomes Jim Carrey as the Grinch.

This is exploitation filmmaking at its most bare bones. It's not quite pornography, not quite horror, not worth your time. It definitely makes sense why they didn't even bother making Blood Link its own poster. I don't want you to mistake me as saying this is one of the worst slasher films I've ever seen - it's not even in the bottom 100 - but it certainly gave me no pleasure to watch. It's largely competent at putting images on the screen and presents its tawdry narrative with clarity, so it's at least above par for an entry this deep into any Census Bloodbath year.

Killer: Keith Mannings (Michael Moriarty)
Final Girl: Julie Warren (Penelope Milford), but only as an afterthought
Best Kill: The reveal of how the twins' parents died, which shows them having sex in a garage for some reason and being hilariously crushed by a speeding truck.
Sign of the Times: We just can't stop calling people with creepy messages on those courtesy telephones at the airport, can we?
Scariest Moment: When training with Bud, Keith starts to get more and more violent and intense.
Weirdest Moment: One other thing the twins have in common is that they like to stir jam into their coffee.
Champion Dialogue: "Breakfast in bed is a disgusting luxury. I love it."
Body Count: 9
  1. Cougar is stabbed in the back.
  2. Prostitute #1 has her head smashed through a window.
  3. Bud Waldo has a heart attack while being beaten to death.
  4. Christine is stabbed to death.
  5. Prostitute #2 is stabbed in the back.
  6. Smuggler is stabbed in the chest.
  7. Keith (or was it Craig? cue dramatic music) is stabbed in the back.
  8. Mom and
  9. Dad are crushed with a truck in flashback.
TL;DR: Blood Link is trying to be something better than it is, and it is failing.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1080

No comments:

Post a Comment