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Overall Rating
2.88

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average75%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 12.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Blood Diner
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Agreeable Slice of Schlock"
3 stars

Right up there with "The Ice Cream Man," only a whole lot bloodier and nudity-filled.

The low-budget writer/director Jackie Kong made her debut with the uneven horror picture The Being, which involved a one-eyed radioactive-waste-spawned creature that wreaked bloody havoc on the citizens of a rural Idaho town. Though the first half was atmospherically strong and compositionally acute, the follow-through was decidedly lackluster, with its awkwardly staged action scenes blowing a good deal of suspense Kong had adequately worked up. Two years later was her Los Angeles-set Police Academy knockoff Night Patrol, which had its moments but not nearly enough -- the movie ran out of viable material after the thirty-minute mark and limped toward its unremarkable finish. Now comes Blood Diner, a no-holds-barred comedy-horror picture that’s her most consistently enjoyable work to date. Kong is one of our least-subtle directors, opting for gross-out set pieces that are sometimes amusing, sometimes banal; she’s had problems with couth, of thinking through her material so there’s something of a unified vision that can carry her stories from beginning to end. So it’s a good thing she didn’t have a hand in the script this time around, for as outlandish as the story premise is it’s supported by a decent amount of imagination, and scene after scene there’s always something odd going on that warrants your attention -- it’s like a box chock-full of phantasmagorical goodies that both repulses and amuses. The movie opens twenty years in the past, in the single-parent Tutman home where the six-year-old twins Michael and George are using Play-Doh to make food dishes that have been taught to them by their ultra-eccentric uncle John, and already Kong makes her presence known with their complaining mother having to go to the store because she’s out of tampons; a few minutes later, the meat-cleaver-wielding uncle shows up with police sirens heard in the distance. He’s wearing a bloody apron, and he gives each of his nephews an ancient pendulum that he tells them are instrumental in someday resurrecting a five-million-year-old goddess by the name of Sheetar; he then goes outside to the awaiting police cars and is shot dead when he charges at them with his weapon (actually we don’t see this; it’s shown to us later via flashback, which is unexpected and one of the indications that Kong didn’t have a hand in the writing). We then forward to the present day where the brothers have a successful West Hollywood vegetarian diner going, with an array of customers astounded by how meat-like-tasting their food really is -- it’s because their cannibalistic selves incorporate animal body parts into their menu selections. (A regular of theirs, a hefty truck-driving-looking man, woofs down his meals astounded at how good supposed vegetarian food can taste, with Kong’s penchant for lowbrow humor evident in that the man loudly belches in between bites.) As if this isn’t enough, the brothers grave-rob their uncle’s corpse, sever the head, extract the brain, place it in a glass jar, rejuvenate it, with the uncle instructing the brothers to collect severed female parts to construct a body by the time the moon is aligned with Jupiter’s path so Sheetar can be brought to life. Have I got your attention yet?

Rather than desperately vying for cult-classic status off a mere catchy story alone by resting on its laurels (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Hell Comes to Frogtown come immediately to mind), Blood Diner doesn’t rest on its laurels and dawdle. It’s constantly throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you, but it doesn’t do so bombastically in that it wears out its welcome after a mere thirty minutes; the screenplay, by Michael Sonye (whose only previous credit is the mediocre Commando Squad), has a sick kind of inner logic with one ghoulish touch after another that both repels and amuses -- it were as if Sonye awoke from a truly out-there dream and made sure to jot down every detail of it right there at his bedside, and, miraculously, he’s succeeded in concocting something reasonably organic out of it. Which is no small feat considering the Tutman brothers start out by machine-gunning a nude aerobics class for body parts, shove another woman’s head in the deep fryer for more, throw a club bouncer who’s denied them admittance under a moving car and his head is crushed to smithereens, invite an IRS agent there to do an audit into the kitchen and chop his digits off and use them as part of their “fish-finger surprise” entrée, with an amateur wrestling match thrown into the mix involving one of the Tutmans facing off against an opponent with a Nazi mustache and a swastika-armband whose arm is greedily gouged on with blood spurting into the audience section. And there are some purely Kong touches, like a schizophrenic owner of a greasy spoon who keeps his ventriloquist dummy on a stool and uses it to make rude asides to his too-few customers, and one of the flatulence-spewing brothers putting his ass out the window to repulse a woman who’s pulled alongside them at a traffic light. (To put it mildly, Kong doesn’t hold anything back: the sperm-bank gag in Night Patrol alone was worth the price of admission. Suffice to say, the very last descriptive you’d use in assessing her stuff is “subtle.”) And darned if Kong’s moviemaking skills haven't improved. She’s much more comfortable using multi-camera set-ups, and she’s gotten some pretty amazing production designs (from Ron Petersen), with every cranny of the frame packed with colorful, attention-getting detail. Blood Diner is all of a piece, and even when the gags don't quite come off you’re always willing to cut it some slack. The movie errs, I think, with the police-procedural subplot of two officers assigned to the murders -- it’s not just that they aren’t funny, they’re not much of anything. Apparently, Kong thought the loudmouth of an India-accented police captain coupled with a white dunderheaded male and take-no-guff black female detective would be a laugh riot, but their scenes lack shaping. It was also unwise not to reveal the Frankenstein-like Sheetar until near the end, when all it does is shoot laser beams out of its eyes and offs a few innocent civilians during a rock concert, though the creature does figure nicely in a satisfying wrap-up. Yes, the acting is across-the-board catastrophic (realistic acting would’ve no doubt punched a considerable hole in the proceedings), but while Blood Diner may not exactly be a feast, it’s surely one hell of an appetizer.

Not yet available on DVD.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4133&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/21/15 11:37:19
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User Comments

11/17/17 morris campbell bloody awful 1 stars
11/11/17 Gonzalo Muy buena 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Sep-1987 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Jackie Kong

Written by
  Michael Sonye

Cast
  Rick Birks
  Carl Crew
  Alan Corona
  Effie Bilbrey
  Cynthia Baker



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