Thursday, August 18, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Da Be Dee, Da Ba Die

Year: 1985
Director: Charlie Wiener
Cast: Jamie Spears, Terry Logan, Peter Brikmanis
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

Plot: Blue Murder sees a mysterious killer targeting the folks behind the production and distribution of dirty movies. The killer has been menacing investigative journalist/weekly columnist Dan Blake (Jamie Spears, who as far as I can tell is not Britney Spears' father, which is great news for him) in an attempt to get him to write a column condemning pornography, which will somehow get the theaters shut down. Blake teams up with Lieutenant Rossey (Terry Logan) to get to the bottom of this.

Analysis: Blue Murder is a TV movie from Canada. If you're thinking "gee, that's a weird thing for a slasher about the porno industry to be," well, you have more sense than the producers of Blue Murder. Rather than being the prurient slasher promised by the poster, it is instead the thing that all audiences in the mid-'80s apparently craved even more than sweet, delicious cocaine: bland police procedural.

Even though it does its slasher due diligence and features a black-gloved killer with an M.O. that involves placing a creepy crown mask on his victims, the film is deeply committed to exploring the underbelly of the city as Blake and Rossey wander around milling around with various anonymous Canadians, most of whom never appear again or figure into the story in a way that actually matters. The kills are also much more "crime movie" than slasher, focusing heavily on the use of guns, the burning of warehouses, and the like.

It's not even good at doing the procedural thing, presenting scenes of investigation in an incoherent jumble that don't seem to connect to anything that comes before or after. Somehow, in spite of this, it's practically impossible not to guess the identity of the killer within ten minutes. 

The true strength of the movie is the fact that it is absolutely bananapants. Because of its kaleidoscope of random white people, the constantly shifting landscape of characters sometimes vomits forth a truly ineffable presence, like the gay stool pigeon relaxing on a yacht with a harem of prettyboys, or the high-roller who informs us that he has been bankrolling Rossey this whole time, even though this reveal amounts to absolutely nothing.

Even though the investigation is incoherent and poorly presented, the fact that the film can only occasionally mimic real human behavior leads to some truly delightful scenes, including - I kid you not - a scene where Blake and Rossey discuss the details of the case while Blake is perched on a toilet at the head of a tub that Rossey is currently taking a bath in. It truly needs to be seen to be believed. While nothing else reaches that kind of ludicrous pleasure, there is something pleasantly delirious about how the film's narrative slips ineffably past you (for instance, the body count reported by the cops is always at least seven kills higher than what is shown onscreen, in a bit of unintentional surrealism), and it's hard not to be drawn to a scene where a farm girl you met one scene ago comes home to her father yells at him about how her mother left them years ago, only to learn that her mother never left and has just been hiding in the next room over, at which point she tells her daughter to fuck off.

It's hard not to feel like I dreamt Blue Murder, and while it is an ineffably bad movie, that is nevertheless a quality I prize very much.

Killer: Father Richards (Peter Brikmanis)
Final Girl: Dan Blake (Jamie Spears)
Best Kill: This is really like picking the best ant at your picnic, but I guess... the projectionist being hanged in the opening montage, while offscreen, provides the creepiest image and implication.
Sign of the Times: One of the cars in the movie has those headlights that flip up when you turn it on.
Scariest Moment: The killer sneaks into Dan's home in the middle of the night to warn him.
Weirdest Moment: As if I could ever get enough mileage out of the bathtub scene.
Champion Dialogue: "If you don't, I'm gonna cram your skull down the toilet."
Body Count: 15; not counting the various inflated body count numbers given by the police throughout the movie (and a couple of the names I'm a little shaky on).
    1. Frank Cole is shot offscreen.
    2. Stryker is shot.
    3. Porn Actor is shot.
    4. Porn Actress is shot.
    5. Porn Actor #2 is shot.
    6. Projectionist is hanged offscreen.
    7. Linda is shot in the head.
    8. Vince is shot.
    9. Some White Man dies in a fire.
    10. Markham dies offscreen.
    11. Peter is shot.
    12. Max is garroted.
    13. Debbie is axed offscreen.
    14. Debbie's Friend is axed offscreen.
    15. Father Richards is shot in the back.
TL;DR: Blue Murder is an incoherent, bad slasher that at least has the decency to be absolutely banana pants.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 824

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