[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 11 – Blood Diner (1987)

Director: Jackie Kong
Cast: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, Roger Daver, LaNette LaFrance, Lisa Guggenheim
Screenplay: Michael Sonye
88 mins. Unrated.

I’m not 100% certain of when I became aware of Blood Diner, but I remember that poster. I can’t even recall where I first saw it, but I love that poster. Then, while sick at home one day, I started watching In Search of Darkness, a pair of documentaries (with a third one on the way) celebrating the 1980s in horror, and there it was: Blood Diner. The film has been notoriously difficult to find at times, after a limited theatrical run, it went to VHS but took years to make the jump to DVD and then Blu-Ray. Well, as it turns out, I had a copy without even being aware of it, and knowing Blood Diner’s relationship to Hershell Gordon Lewis’s torture porn classic Blood Feast, I had to take the opportunity to highlight it this month.

Brothers Michael & George run a popular health food diner, but their patrons do not know that this eatery is a front for their true goal: a cannibalistic ritual to bring forth the ancient goddess Sheetar. Aided by their undead Uncle Anwar, the brothers prep for their ritual by collecting virgin body parts for their blood buffet, all the while evading detectives hot on their trail.

Blood Diner started out as a sequel to Hershell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, but just before production began, the decision was made to treat the film as inspired by Blood Feast, but really being its own thing. Interestingly enough, the finished product feels more like a remake than anything else, and ironically, years later, Blood Feast got both an actual sequel and an actual remake, and now Blood Diner exists in its own place in the history of horror.

Let me start with this: Blood Diner is a bad movie. A very bad movie. To be honest, it’s been a few days since I saw it, and had I started writing this right after seeing the movie, I probably would’ve hated this thing. A few days, though, have given me some time to process the movie, and this movie requires processing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this movie is kind of amazing. It’s bad. It’s maybe the perfect example of so-bad-it’s-good cinema. There’s just so much going on in Blood Diner that it’s hard to even comprehend it all, but I’ll try to explain it the best I can. That’s what I’m here for.

It didn’t shock me to learn that Blood Diner was shot in 3 weeks. That seems to be the style for filmmaker Jackie Kong (Night Patrol, The Underachievers). Her small but memorable filmography is littered with schlock that likely could’ve inspired Peter Jackson’s splatstick absurdity in years to come. Kong infuses Blood Diner with a ludicrous display of visual insanity that doesn’t always work, but if you’re in the right mood and you have a few friends and maybe a few brews and a solid amount of fast food, it could work.

But let me continue by saying the acting is pretty much atrocious by all, the logic gaps (which I believe are purposefully done) run aplenty, and the various visual gags are seemingly meant to turn viewers away. Tasteless may be the best term to describe what’s being put on display here.

So even though Blood Diner is a film you can “warm” up to (and I use that term lightly), there will be some of you that see it and cry foul. This will not satisfy everyone. In fact, it’ll probably turn most of you away. But the lunacy is still pretty fun, and the so-bad-it’s-good nature is something to be admired, as most films of that ilk that try to be bad just ending up being worse than you could imagine. Blood Diner is a special kind of bad, and since it is so tough to find on any media, be it physical or digital, that I have to recommend trying it if you come across it. It’s like the golden idol in Raiders, and horror fans are Indiana Jones. If we find something this rare, we must see it. Maybe that’ll sway you, maybe it won’t.

-Kyle A. Goethe

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