Blood Beat ★★½

What’s stopping you from watching a “samurai slasher?” Nothing should. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing phrase in human history. So what’s the story?

In rural Wisconsin, USA, siblings Ted and Dolly, plus Ted’s new girlfriend Sarah, visit their mother, Cathy, and her boyfriend Gary. Cathy and Gary are an odd couple: He’s a good ol’ boy with a love for hunting, like the kids, but she’s a spiritual artist with a flair for expressionist painting. Upon meeting Sarah, Cathy senses something dark about her. Sarah feels this, which unnerves her. During a deer hunt with the rest of the family (including Uncle Pete), the rhythm of impending death becomes so intense that Sarah screams and flees aimlessly through the woods, until she collides into a man with fatal wounds in his belly.

After police investigate, everybody heads home for the evening. The home is unsettled. Cathy’s hypersensitivity goes off the hook: a force takes hold of her hand and brush and paints an ominous figure resembling a Japanese warrior—like the samurai armor (among other weird collectibles) she has stored in the guest room where Sarah tries to sleep. There’s some connection between Sarah and this soldier antique, which awakens an evil spirit within it. Then, the killings begin, accompanied by supernaturalia and fake blood.

Despite the low-grade production—bad actors, occasional clunky editing, novice direction, and poor sound—there are enjoyable qualities in “Blood Beat.” It’s a bizarre feature that has a mix of skill and error in nearly every moment. There are several scenes that overcome the cringing characters with good shots (ranging from mounted to tracking to a surprisingly naturalistic handheld style), qualities of montage, and dissonant classical music as the score. Among my favorites is that scene when Cathy’s telepathic brushstrokes alternate with Sarah’s psychic connection, which increases with each thrust of her hips into the air. The paintings themselves are actually really cool, I’d hang them in my bedroom. And, you know, a samurai demon roams and teleports in the countryside at night with a glowing katana. When it first approaches the family home, it acts on the house as a poltergeist, turning the inanimate—doors, cupboards, canned food—into weapons; a Sam Raimi moment, a la “Evil Dead 2” and “Spiderman 2.” It’s absurd and cool and awkward in its brutality.

As a so-bad-it’s-good movie, “Blood beat” is quite entertaining. For example, Ted picks the most inopportune moments to engage Sarah for sex: upon arriving at the house and when Sarah is frightened in bed, for example. Gary’s peak dramatic scene is undermined by poor grammar (the wording had to have been scripted, unfortunately). Actress Helen Benton, as Cathy, obviously can’t act; she plays clairvoyance like a faux-palm reader, as if nothing could stop one’s delusions of spiritual connectivity. There’s a hilarious altercation between her and Dolly, who’s heavy-handed seriousness about her mother’s intrusion into her mind intercuts with Cathy’s tepid nodding. It’s the most laugh-out-loud conversation in the film. The screams are always annoying, likely to inspire chastisement more than concern from the audience (i.e., “Jesus Christ, will you shut up and relax?!”). The kill scenes aren’t very extravagant, more underwhelming and delightfully odd because of it. And we get to see Uncle Pete the speed freak, flying over hilled roads in his pickup with a topper on the bed. Why? Who cares! It’s there.

“Blood Beat” won’t win over “serious” film buffs, but it’s mix of horror, strange vibes, silly acting, and goofs that match the competent attributes will surely appeal to committed genre hounds.

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