4/10/09

Between Heaven and Hell: Week 2- Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2002)

Hello and welcome back to Between Heaven and Hell. This Friday is of course very special because it’s Good Friday, a holiday observed by Christians worldwide as the day that Jesus was hung on the cross. Keeping that in mind, I have a special film for you folks that stars the big JC himself but will his film rise from the tomb or will it get nailed up next to two even worse films. We’ll find out as we take a look at…

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001) starring Phil Caracas, Maria Moulton, Jeff Moffat, and Tim Devries.  Directed by Lee Demarbre. 

As a plague of daylight resistant, lesbian vampires infects a town, a couple of punk rock priests decide to enlist the help of Jesus Christ himself. After rallying to their cause, Jesus (Caracas) hits the streets armed with a new short haircut and a couple of piercings to put an end to the vampires and their lesbian killing ways. He enlists help from Mary Magnum (Moulton), Apostle to the Apostles, but they are defeated by head vampires Johnny Golgotha (Ian Discoll) and Maxine Scheck (Murielle Varhelyi).  

Wondering why God has forsaken him, Jesus retreats to an ice cream parlor to drown his sorrows. Then from the bowl of frozen goodness comes the voice of his dear old dad who commands Jesus to enlist the help of the Saint of the Ring, Santo (Moffat). With the silver faced wrestler by his side, Jesus is ready for the final fight to determine the fate of the world. While these vampires may no longer fear the sun, they will learn to fear The Son!

The Bugg Picture

This is a film that I’ve been holding onto since someone gave it to me for Christmas (yeah, people know me pretty well), and I’ve been eagerly awaiting reviewing this film. Waiting for a little over three months to see this one, I was sure that the film would not live up to my expectations. After all what other movie boasts Jesus, vampires, Mexican wrestlers, dirt bikes, kung fu, and musical numbers. Well, I’m pretty sure there’s only one, and be assured folks, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is a one of a kind film. 

While JCVH obviously has its roots in sacrilege, it’s not the main focus of the film. In fact apart from Jesus being the main character and a healthy dose of pithy Son of God one liners (Such as when Jesus thumps his chest after dealing an ass kicking and proclaims, “Body of Christ!”) the flick does not really bask in the glow of heresy. Instead, we have a Jesus who is full of love for his fellow man, and only does what he has to stop the forces of evil. Sure he may have to take a stop to knock some sense into a few Atheists, but it’s all in a days work for JC. 

The two greatest strengths of the film are the script and the camera work. While obviously shot on a shoestring budget (less than 10,000 Canadian. I could have converted that to U.S. dollars, but I would have to consult a magazine cover to come up with an exchange rate.), Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter has a great look to it. Shot entirely on 16mm film, it gives the film a great retro vibe without beating the audience over the head with it. This is only enhanced by the overdubbed dialog which gives it that great slightly off feeling that is so familiar to fans of foreign films. As for the script by Ian Driscoll (who also appears as Johnny Golgotha), it’s very well paced, and littered with a great array of one liners designed to keep you giggling. Even the singular musical number turned out to be a highly entertaining affair that cribbed bits from everything from West Side Story to Jesus Christ Superstar

As with most low budget films, it’s the cast that really sells the picture. When you don’t have money for fancy effects, fight choreography, or costuming, a lot can be made up with inspired performances. All the actors obviously threw themselves into their roles and it shows. (I know they had to have plenty of dedication, after all it took over 2 years filming on weekends to finish the film.)  Phil Caracas eats up the screen as JC, and all his scenes are highly entertaining. Jeff Moffat must have seen a couple Santo films in his time as he nails the mannerisms of everyone‘s favorite superhero wrestler. The most amazing thing about the rest of the cast is that no one is terrible. Usually there is at least one bad actor in an indie film, but for my money, I didn’t see one here. 

What director Lee Demarbre managed to do was the near impossible. He managed to make a film that spoofed genre film conventions and religion without resorting to broad comedy or humor that was offensive for its own sake. He gave his film a cool look, kept it pacey and interesting, and got killer performances. That is no easy task for the low budget filmmaker. So trust ol’ T.L. when I say you should check this one out, and if you don’t want to take my word for it, may the power of Christ compel you!


The Bugg Rating


8 comments:

  1. The intrigues me, and I enjoy a good bought of blasphemy. But I understand your trepidation in thinking the film simply couldn't live up to the expectations of its premise. Good to hear that like Bubba Ho-Tep, it manages to follow through.

    Now I await the sequel: Mohammad—Scourge of the Zombie Plagues.

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  2. Completely agree here Bug, JCVH is one of the few times a fantastic low budget title was actually properly executed. The film is instantly quotable and has the perfect tone to make for the perfect B-movie. Really enjoyed this one!

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  3. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and one I never tire of watching over and over again. Of particular note for me is the "Sermon on the Mount" at the end.

    Great review!

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  4. Wow, this sounds like a good one, I'm going to have to put it on my "to watch list".

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  5. This is a movie I've been contemplating seeing for the past couple of years. I was afraid that it would be too over baked and not hold up to it's promised expectations. Plus the fact that it was billed as a musical turned me off...I'm no fan of musicals, but I digress. Anyway, thanks to your excellent review. I'm going to have to pick this one up ASAP.

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  6. Thanks for all the great comments. This is one not to be missed, and I'm glad I've done some little part to get the word on this out there.

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  7. I started watching it on INstant WAtch, ran out of time, and then it went away but is scheduled to return in December.

    Thanks God! (and his son!)

    I was about 30 minutes into it and having a great time. Like ThanksKilling, it clearly knew its audience and limitations and made the most of them. Some of the jokes were fabulous ( I was cracking up at the body of christ smack) and the songs were pretty damn well produced. I pretty much can't wait to finish it now.

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  8. Emily, Love to hear what you think of it after you watch the whole film. It's one of those rare pictures that actually makes you want to encourage independent film makers instead of punching them in the nose.

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