In the annals of Christmas set horror cinema, few are as immediately outlandish as 1983’s offbeat, samurai possession slasher Blood Beat. As obscure as it is strange, the majority of the jaded genre fans who tune into Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night annually have likely never even heard of Fabrice A. Zaphiratos’ film let alone seen it. And that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, released on VHS in the mid 80s (a tape that isn’t the most collectible nor the most accessible) with no disc release until now, it’s time for Blood Beat to reach the audience it deserves via a surprising Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome.
Shot by the French Zaphiratos in Wisconsin, of all places, Blood Beat is lo-fi regional horror that wears its budget shortcomings with pride all the while unraveling a narrative so fucking bizarre it could make David Lynch confounded. Synopsis is a disservice to those discovering the film for the first time, but Zaphiratos (who also wrote the film) manages to weave a Christmastime tale that involves deer hunting, Japanese samurai gear, ghosts, dead bodies and gratuitous nudity. And its structure is borderline abstract – this is the Death Bed of slasher/possession cinema. It legitimately has no peer.
Vinegar Syndrome bring Blood Beat to disc for the first time via a 4K scan from the original negative. It opens with a warning regarding mold issues on the source, but I can’t imagine many fans being deterred by what we get here. This is easily the best Blood Beat has looked on home video (not that there was much of a contest) with a predominantly clean, organic presentation that does its 35mm origins justice. The end credits couldn’t be recovered on a film source so those revert to VHS which, rather than be distracting, otherwise call attention to just how in need of this release it was. Audio is 1.0 DTS HD MA which is a solid track that recreates its original monaural presentation. It’s not a track that will wow anyone, but it is exactly what it should be.
Vinegar Syndrome also offer up a few great supplements to the package, starting with a very short intro from Zaphiratos. He also returns for a feature commentary which is in French and is about as scattered as the movie. There’s some great info in there, but mining it may be difficult outside of major fans. We then get an 18 minute interview with him that’s more of the same and touches a lot on his upbringing and the origins of the film. We then get another 18 minute interview, this time with cinematographer Vladimir Van Maule, which is a more technical talk and is much easier to grasp. The last major extra is the inexplicable 28 minute “silent version” of Blood Beat which is even weirder than the actual film. Lastly, there’s an odd short film from Zapharitos son and a stills gallery.
I am elated that Blood Beat is now readily available and has been lovingly restored. If not for my own collection, for the sake of everyone else who has yet to discover it. An ultra-weird, ultra-rare slice of regional horror that also happens to be a Christmastime samurai possession slasher movie, Blood Beat is singular in its concept and approach and should be relished. Highly Recommended.