31 Days of Horror Presents Prime in the Dustbin: ‘Blood Beat’ (1983)

I watch movies with the subtitles on. This is an especially helpful tool when I watch movies on Prime Video, where older movies are often presented in no better than VHS rip quality. Needless to say, I’ve seen some strange descriptions on those handy little captions, but my favorite one is during a movie called Blood Beat.

Mystical boinging.

You know that sound you hear when someone’s hands inexplicably begin to glow red and badly animated comic book explosion stars encircle their wrists? That’s mystical boinging. When a ghost samurai unsheathes his blue ghost sword, you hear mystical boinging. Even when someone’s girlfriend has a terrible fake orgasm onscreen while the aforementioned samurai attacks three hunters around a campfire, mystical boinging fills the air. All these things happen during Blood Beat, a movie that raises more questions than it answers, the main one being: what happened?

Gary (Terry Brown) is a rough outdoors type. He wakes up muddy and goes to bed bloody, because he’s a bowhunting man. Even his Sony Walkman has a leather case to keep the animal guts from gunking up his cassette rewind mechanism. Gary lives in rural Wisconsin with his artist girlfriend, Cathy (Helen Benton). Cathy looks like a more symmetrical Shelly Duvall. Even though she’s with Bowhuntin’ Gary, she refuses to marry him. She loves him, but she loves her painting more.

Cathy’s grown kids are coming to visit. Dolly (Dana Day) is a rough and tumble type who is on the archery team at her school. Ted (James Fitzgibbons) is a wide-collared goofus who uses the word “doggone” far too much. For example, “Dolly is just so doggone stupid! Coming all the doggone way home and telling Mom she quit doggone school!” Wait… how is Dolly on the archery team if she quit school? Is she so doggone stupid she didn’t realize that leaving college is an automatic disqualification from the archery team? Ted has brought home his twitchy girlfriend, Sarah (Claudia Peyton). Sarah hates it there immediately. Hunting culture does not appeal to her. She particularly dislikes Cathy, and the feeling is mutual. When they meet, they spend a few moments squinting at each other, nodding their heads curtly.

Ted shows Sarah her room and promptly lays her down upon the bed. Sarah fights off his advances, saying that it feels like his mother is in the room. In fact, it feels like Cathy is in her head, reading her mind, scrutinizing her, like a scrawny Denzel Washington. Weirdly, Sarah isn’t wrong. The whole time they are making out, Cathy is in her downstairs studio, making constipated faces, obviously displeased about the shenanigans her son is up to with that woman.

Where is this going? Out into the woods, where Gary takes the kids and Uncle Pete (who goes by the CB handle, Red Baron) on a deer hunt. It isn’t made clear why Sarah joins this expedition when she has already made her disdain for killing obvious. Just as everyone is about to fire their weapons, Sarah screams and runs off. This frightens the deer, who also runs off. There is a lot of running off in this movie. As Sarah makes her way back to the house, she is headed off at the pass by a random guy with a hole in his stomach. His guts are aren’t hanging out, but you can still see them. It’s like a tiny porthole into his intestines. Dainty.

Sarah goes back to her room and begins digging around in an old trunk. She pulls out an entire Samurai costume, complete with sword. Well, people collect odd things, so I guess that’s okay. Sarah nicks her thumb on the pseudo-Hanzo blade and screams. Ted comes doggone rushing in and guess what? All a dream. No trunk, no sword. This whole time, Cathy is downstairs, holding her paintbrush like a butcher knife, trying to stab a wall.

And really, all this takes too doggone long, and what it comes down to is this: someone in the samurai gear Sarah dreamed about it is killing people. Now, the samurai is surrounded by a blue glow, so you can see the weirdo coming from a mile away, and yet people still sit there calmly and wait to be stabbed. The samurai is connected to Cathy, whose hands sometimes glow red, because she’s some kind of psychic warrior. She has sworn to protect her family from the samurai, who wants to kill her and her whole doggone clan for reasons that are never explained. It has something to do with World War II, because we see black and white stock footage. Did the filmmakers confuse kamikaze pilots with feudal era warrior-poets?

And what is the weird telekinetic bond between Cathy and Sarah? Is Sarah somehow controlling the samurai, projecting her energy into it? The samurai does kill some folks while she’s getting raw-doggoned by Ted (mystical boinging), so maybe there’s some channeling going on. Is she Cathy’s long-lost daughter? That’s going to make Christmas dinner weird. More importantly, is Dolly in school or not? The point is, we don’t know. Nothing is explained, and we aren’t given enough clues to fully decipher the mystery for ourselves.

Blood Beat (it’s a love beat) comes down to red glowy light vs. blue glowy light. We also get a weird psychic battle between Sarah and Cathy. Again, it’s all squinting and head nodding and mystical boinging. It’s like Scanners meets an ibuprofen commercial. Then suddenly, Ted and Dolly have incredible mental powers, too! It’s the Wisconsin version of The Fury! Where’s Kirk Douglas? They start glowing and squinting and boinging in a mystic fashion, and none of it makes a doggone lick of sense and I honestly don’t know what the heckin’ feck I just sat through.

There are some movies you don’t watch. You can only gawk at them. Blood Beat is a movie for rubberneckers. The acting is atrocious, especially James Fitzgibbons as doggone Ted, who only has two facial expressions: half-asleep and recipient of a surprise enema. If you’re going to film a weird concept, like an oversized Shogun Warrior wreaking havoc in rural Wisconsin, have the balls to back it up with an actual story. This feels more like a producer saying, “Hey, I’ve got a bitchin’ samurai outfit. I borrowed it from Bruce Wayne. It was next to the King of the Wicker People display. We should make a doggone movie!”

No. No, you shouldn’t.

But if you really want to dive into this dumpster, Blood Beat is available on doggone Prime Video (mystical boinging included, free of charge).

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