Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scream Blacula Scream

Directed by Bob Kelljan.
1973. Rated PG, 96 minutes.
William Marshall
Pam Grier
Don Mitchell
Richard Lawson
Michael Conrad
Lynne Moody
Janee Michelle
Barbara Rhoades

Willis Daniels (Lawson) isn’t grieving even though his mother has just passed away and, for some reason, is still lying on the couch in a room full of people. He’s too busy whining that she didn’t name him as her successor to become the high priest of their little voodoo cult. There will be a vote to see who gets the post and all the members assure him they won’t be voting for him, they’ll be voting for Lisa. Lisa is played by…Pam Grier. I love Pam Grier. Willis storms out. Not done with the affair, though, he goes to visit an old man who himself was once ousted from the very same position in the same group to get some help plotting revenge. The old man gives Willis a pile of bones (complete with skull) and an instruction manual, tells him this will help him get revenge and warns him of the immense power he’s about to unleash. Undeterred, Willis uses the instructions to resurrect whoever this heap of bones used to be. Of course, we know from the title that it is none other than our favorite non-Anglo vampire: Prince Mamuwalde, AKA Blacula. Our boy comes back to (un)life and bites Willis which sends us into the opening credits. When they stop rolling, Willis is a vampire and his storyline is largely forgotten. Did I mention that Pam Grier is in this movie?

Honestly, it’s probably a good idea we move on from Willis. Blacula is a far more intriguing character. If you saw the first movie then you know that right at the end, he becomes a strangely sympathetic character. When he shows up on the screen this time around, that’s gone and we’re right back into the horror. Like most sequels, the body count is amped up a bit. The story also takes a little while longer to take shape. Blacula spends much time hanging around the cult after he learns that the beautiful Pam Grier, I mean Lisa, is naturally gifted when it comes to voodoo. In between conversations with her and her boyfriend Justin (Mitchell) who collects ancient African artifacts, Mamuwalde chows down on random cultists plus a couple muggers that can’t take a hint. Of course, with all the bodies piling up and then disappearing Justin gets suspicious and tries desperately to convince the cops that a vampire is responsible. Meanwhile, I get increasingly jealous of the two men who get to sit very near Pam Grier.

As a whole, the visuals haven’t aged well which detracts from the fright factor. Still, the makeup is a bit better than it was in the original and there are a few very effective scenes based on tone and tension. The dialogue ranges from pretty good in spots to terrible in others. Most of the acting is nothing to write home about, either. Yet in the title role William Marshall, a Shakespearian trained actor and you can tell it, rises above his cast mates and endows Mamuwalde with the dignity and formalism befitting a prince. And yes, leading lady Pam Grier is mesmerizing. Hmmm…if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was creepier than the movie.

Through it all, we get a fun, occasionally campy horror flick that manages to turn the same trick as its predecessor by making us feel bad for the bad guy. We don’t develop the same level of empathy we did the first time around but we don’t loathe him and look at him like an unfeeling monster, either. It’s these touches that mark the franchise as better than expected. Neither title leads you to believe the films will be any good at all. While they aren’t great, they’re both enjoyable. And this one has Pam Grier.

No comments:

Post a Comment