The Asheville Community Resource Center continues its Cult/Trash movie series with this Canadian oddity from filmmaker Lee Demarbre, who made his mark (such as it is) by cooking up a trailer for a nonexistent movie called Harry Knuckles, which paved the way for a short film, Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy. That short led to this deliberately cheesy and provocative feature, using most of the same sort of, umm, talent from the Harry Knuckles movies.
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter a bit like a Troma film (Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman) in its sometimes strained attempts to deliberately recreate the realm of what might be called Le Cinema Mal — a toffee-nosed Cahiers du Cinema-sounding term for movies that are “so bad they’re good.” The question arises, of course, whether it’s quite the same making a movie that sets out to be bad as it is making one that got that way by accident. There’s certainly something a little bogus about it.
However, in the case of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, I’m compelled to believe that the makers of the movie — for all their trash-movie savvy — probably couldn’t have made a film any better than this. Watching Dembarbre’s film, I was reminded of a remark by one of Ed Wood’s cohorts: “If Ed had had a million dollars, Plan 9 would still have been a piece of sh*t.” So there’s a certain degree of genuine ineptitude at work here, giving the film a Cinema Mal legitimacy.
The plot is undeniably more consciously strange than anything by Ed Wood: Jesus Christ (Phil Caracas) is a kickboxing vampire killer who likes to sing. He’s out to defeat a gang of vampires who can walk in the daylight and fixate on attacking lesbians. (And Wood would only have come up with character names like Maxine Schreck, Mary Magnum and Gloria Oddbottom by accident, though he might well have written a masked Mexican wrestler into his films had he been aware of their existence.)
The results are uneven and occasionally mind-bogglingly bad (which is partly the point), but they’re never what you’d call dull. There’s certainly no film that’s quite like it.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke
[Jesus Christ Vampire Killer will be shown at 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 23 at the Asheville Community Resource Center, 16 Carolina Lane, downtown. Admission is $3-5 (what you can afford) — and costumes are encouraged.]