Release Date(s)1987 (September 27, 2016)
Studio(s)Lightning Pictures/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector’s Series)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Few horror comedies have the distinction of being considered truly crazy and over the top, especially those that came out during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Some were all over the place with their zaniness, others were more grounded with stronger horror elements. Blood Diner is the former. Released in 1987, it went on to be a late night cable favorite for a lot of folks who originally saw it. Unfortunately, it has also gone mostly unnoticed for many years on home video. The story of Blood Diner involves two brothers who witness their cultist uncle being murdered, later growing up to be chefs. While running their local restaurant, they simultaneously follow in their uncle’s cultist ways, even when their restaurant takes off after including a very distinct secret ingredient: human flesh. After resurrecting their uncle’s brain and eyes and placing them in a jar, he orders them to construct a new body that will house the spirit of an ancient Lumerian goddess named Sheetar. Little do they realize though that two detectives are on their trail and things are about to get out of control before they can fully succeed with their nefarious plans.
There isn’t much to say about Blood Diner’s quality really. It’s the lack of it that makes it special. It seems to have something in mind but never finds a proper foothold in terms of tone or execution. It really is a movie that’s just all over the place. Filled with a lot of post production overdubs, as well as unnecessarily long takes and rapid-fire dialogue that not only inches towards depravity but jumps over it completely, the movie is sort of gonzo. And besides it just being an obscure movie, most of the people involved with it are names most people won’t recognize at all, including the main actors. The cast is made up of many amateurs, including the folks behind the camera. Sadly, Rick Burks, who plays one of the two brothers, died in a car accident not long after making the movie, so he didn’t get a chance to do much else afterwards. The movie was also directed by Jackie Kong, who is a female director, as well as a rarity for the genre during this era of horror movies. It certainly goes to prove that no matter what sex you are, anyone can make an eccentric kind of movie.
Oddly enough, Blood Diner was intended to be a sequel to 1963’s Blood Feast since the producer owned the rights to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ catalogue of work, but the title was eventually changed anyway. The movie doesn’t have much in common with Blood Feast, other than cannibalism, and goes more for slapstick and puns rather than satire or black comedy. Shot in just three weeks with a final runtime of 88 minutes, the movie sort of died in a limited theatrical run and went straight to home video heaven, but it managed to garner a small audience of people who loved it for what it was. And even though not all of the jokes or horror moments land, the movie has some pretty good make-up effects... then again there is that scene with the naked lady with the deep-fried head running around in circles and crashing into everything. I think you get the idea. The bottom line is that if you appreciate absurdist and/or juvenile humor with weird performances in a horror/comedy hybrid, you might dig this one. If anything else, it’s definitely a memorable movie.
Blood Diner is the second release by Lionsgate in their new Vestron Video Collector’s Series, headed up by friend of The Digital Bits, producer Dustin Dean. Only occasionally popping up on DVD from time to time and quickly going out of print, a high definition transfer of the movie approved by both the director and cinematographer is a welcome one. Overall, it’s a very organic-looking presentation with nicely refined film grain at times, but a little chunkier at others. Fine detail is quite good, although lacking when it comes to shadow detail (mostly attributed to the original cinematography). There’s also some nice color reproduction and good skin tones. Black levels are quite deep, and both contrast and brightness levels are at acceptable levels. The transfer is also very clean and is quite stable, with only minor artifacts leftover, mostly white specks. The only audio track available is an English mono DTS-HD track that’s been given a stereo boost. Dialogue is very clean and clear, hanging out mostly towards the front and making the overdubs sound more obvious than ever before. The score and music selection have some nice heft, and sound effects have some decent kick. Everything is well-prioritized, even though there isn’t much in terms of directionality or major low end activity. It’s a terrific presentation, overall, and easily the best the movie has ever looked on home video (or has had any right to, for that matter). There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
Like the other recent Vestron Blu-ray title Chopping Mall, there’s some great supplemental material to dig through on this release as well. First up is an audio commentary with director Jackie Kong; the brand new Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner documentary in five parts, which interviews many of the folks behind the scenes; an archival interview with project consultant Eric Caiden; 2 theatrical trailers; 2 TV spots; 3 radio spots; and a still gallery. The documentary and the audio commentary are the stars of the show here and definitely worth your time to check out.
I think it’s safe to say that Blood Diner is one of the more bizarre horror comedies to come out of the 1980’s, let alone any other decade. In my opinion, one of the only other movies from that era that comes close to it is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Getting a high definition release packed with extras seems like too much to ask for, but in the wake of companies like Arrow Video doing elaborate releases of movies like Blood Rage and The Mutilator, anything is possible now. If you love obscure horror movies or horror comedies from the 1980’s, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up. It’s a wonderful release.
- Tim Salmons