Blu-Ray Review – Blood Theatre / Visitants

Here lie the first two films from Rick Sloane, who created his own cottage industry of campy schlock horror movies—most famously the Gremlins rip-off Hobgoblins. His desire to make films started when he was 18 and saw Joe Dante’s debut as a director, Hollywood Boulevard, which he co-directed with Allan Arkush (later the director of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School–which Joe directed a few days on too). Sloane soon enrolled in film school at LA City College, and was constantly told that he was the least talented student on the program. But he would later make enough money off Hobgoblins and the Vice Academy films to buy a place off Mulholland, so take that, pretentious film teachers!

Blood Theatre is the lesser of these two films, even if it’s sold as the top of the double bill. The film’s greatest asset by some distance is Mary Woronov, who Sloane approached on a whim to play the incredibly bitchy secretary to the sleazeball manager of a movie theatre chain. In the introduction, Sloane says Woronov makes the film watchable, and he isn’t wrong: she always lightens up even the schlockiest crap with her presence. Naturally, the title refers to a movie theatre that starts an increasingly bizarre series of murders. Sloane swings between comedy and horror, and is so inept at both that it’s as if a mentally challenged alien tried to direct a low-budget slasher… and I mean that as a compliment. Sloane also supplies the cheesiest score ever, recorded on the crappiest sounding Casio keyboard in existence.

Sloane’s next film, Visitants, was actually kind of good, but being good was never the point of his work, after all. It was made on a shoestring budget of $8,500, and it’s an alien invasion film that is partially set in the ’50s! It’s kind of like The Archies meet Plan 9 From Outer Space, with a plot about a high schooler who gets hold of his evil extraterrestrial neighbour’s ray-gun. Most of the film is the aliens trying to get their gun back. The alien’s motives on earth seem to be less clear than the aliens in Rocky Horror which is saying something. The film’s setting, which seems to start in the ’50s and then move 30 years ahead to the ’80s is arguably even less clear. It’s a much better film than Blood Theatre, even though Woronov would’ve been perfect as the female alien, with her terrible ’50 wig.

These two films were made by a dedicated filmmaker who tries to be Ed Wood, but doesn’t quite have the heart and soul Wood poured into every frame of his films. Still, his movies have their moments. The set of the alien craft in Visitants is actually from the Francis Ford Coppola-directed Disneyland movie Captain EO (it’s long gone now), which starred Michael Jackson. Boy, the stuff you can get for cheap for L.A.!

The disc includes commentaries by Sloane on both films, along with an intro and Q&A session from a double bill at the New Beverly in L.A., Woronov does the Q&A with Sloane. The films look better than they have any right to, of course, due to the work of the team at Vinegar Syndrome.

Ian Schultz

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