December 2, 2010 at 3:59 am (7 Heads, Bloodspell) (, , , )

Bloodspell – 1987 – United States

I don’t like 80s flicks. I avoid this biasing my reviews, often overcompensating…or not. Selecting a Troma movie (their distribution catalog is 80s purified), I do so gingerly. For every Surf Nazis Must Die and Horror of the Humongous Hungry Houngan (readers, note my fondness for this flick), there’s dreariness like Beyond Evil and Mommy’s Epitaph. Bloodspell (a.k.a. The Boy From Hell) defies all Troma conventions, being genuinely good with minimum ludicracy, and shockingly near well made!

Set in a home for emotionally troubled youth, Bloodspell’s lead is an angry wuss (and an always shirtless long haired stud, ladies), baited by the other teens. A new kid arrives (apparently possessed by Satan) and strange accidents of the wood chipper variety occur. As bodies pile up, the wuss’s crew disregards his allegations of the supernatural until he garners courage to confront the Lord of Evil personally. An effects laden showdown ensues.

Ignoring ridiculous dialogue situations (i.e. two kids are merely reprimanded after lighting an occupied bed on fire in a totally deranged prank), Bloodspell’s characters display depth and believability, and the setting is well utilized. Also surprising, Bloodspell’s unassuming script tackles Big Issues (suicide, love, bullying, alienation) sincerely and meaningfully. While it borders after school special territory, particularly the group hug (no exaggeration) ending, it’s evened out by doses of angsty cynicism and gore. Testament to Bloodspell’s good writing and acting, I was engrossed despite middling supernatural elements. Thankfully, the ho-hum gore murders and possessions appear sparingly, mostly forcing along a plot so limp it literally ends with divine intervention as Satan is smote by lightning. Livening the lame premise are hardworking subplots: the wuss’s uncertain romance, the housemother defying her boss, the teens mourning friends’ deaths. By the end, I’d developed sympathetic bonds with each character. But fear not, dark themes keep it from being too heartwarming, mostly.

Visually, Bloodspell suffers all the 80s pitfalls: flat lighting, sterile sets, and restrained gore, but moments of flair creep in. The radical color correction is effective, washing night scenes in deep blues and purples. Angular compositions and extreme close-ups add drama. The fights are also compellingly savage. In numerous instances, characters ferociously ravage each other, as if the actors are going for blood, shoving, clawing, and pulling hair. Movie fights are not easily convincing, but when done right, add great emotional intensity. Some film student out there should use that idea for a paper.

There are much better horror flicks and dramas, but in the decade of Halloween rip-offs and endless C.H.U.D. mutants, being unexpected goes a long way. Bloodspell is surprising and categorization defying. There are moments of eye-rolling hokiness, but it grabbed me so deeply I look back endearingly even on those. There are plenty of similar flicks but none with quite the same qualities, blending emotion and strong characterization with B-movie tripe.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. After a search, I found no other positive reviews for Bloodspell. I suppose my enthusiasm is what makes me a true fan.

Note: Don’t miss the skateboard trick scene crammed senselessly in the flick’s middle. A kid (appearing nowhere else) does 360s and handstands before disappearing. Groovy!


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