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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
Director: Lee Demarbre
review by Richard Bowden
"The power of Christ impales you!"
Cheerfully cheap and good naturedly blasphemous, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is blessed with the sort of once in a lifetime title which makes it irresistible. It is also the first feature-length film by Lee Demarbre, a Canadian director and stars his favourite actor-friend: Phil Caracas, also the lead of the director's previous two shorter works, based around the character 'Harry Knuckles'. Caracas has since appeared in a more diffuse second feature by Demarbre, the cunningly named Harry Knuckles And The Pearl Necklace (2004), and presumably will also be seen in his upcoming 'Black Kissinger'.
Described as a "kung-fu action / comedy / horror / musical about the second coming" Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter delivers in varying degrees on all these points, with the good Lord punching out, and then staking out, vampires, this while making with biblical wit, coping with gory attacks from body parts as well as finding time for the odd musical number. The film starts with a rising babble of voices, "Are you there, God? Give me a sign! Let me know you care!" - to which the following narrative provides a playful answer: yes He is there, out drop kicking evil doers, in holy robes, socks and trainers on the dangerous streets of Ottawa. Not before an intro from a bearded prophet though, (unnamed but with echoes of John The Baptist) who draws our attention to the significance of what we will shortly behold, an attempt to fill "the empty house of the soul." Exactly what the prophet has in mind by way of further enlightenment is vague, but without further ado we are plunged into the first vampire attack. In modern times vampires have come on apace since their more traditional forebears, and can now venture out in the daylight. Just as important is the fact that, in this film at least, they only seek out fellow lesbians.
Naturally, this scourge alarms the church, and two clerics are despatched to fetch the only man who can save the situation - Jesus Christ, found in characteristic baptismal pose at the seashore. Shortly after the Lord offers them refreshment in an exchange recalling loaves and fishes ("Lemonade?" / "Will there be enough?" / "Oh there will be plenty"), lesbian vampires attack them. A first bout of kung fu ensues and Jesus duly shows his mettle. After this temporary setback, and to a books-of-the-Bible countdown, the Lord promptly climbs aboard his scooter and heads back to the city for a haircut, ear piercing, change of clothes and to challenge the forces of evil. Soon he sings a song, in echo of the original entry into Jerusalem (here on a skateboard), encounters his first helper - the curvaceous Mary Magnum, and hears the voice of God speaking from a bowl of cherry ice cream...
Filmed an a miniscule budget, and designed as a gentle parody rather than anything more offensive, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter largely succeeds because of the brisk editing, novelty of conception and the unpretentious involvement of all concerned. No one will pretend that the acting is anything but than rudimentary or that action scenes are not roughly choreographed. But the fun is the thing. Evil in Ottawa eventually takes many forms, including bloody criminal mastermind Johnny Golgotha, the dreaded 'kung-fu atheists' and bars full of vampires - variables dictated one suspects by the pool of talent on hand during any given day. Demarbre has a weakness for martial arts and in themselves Jesus' fights, being just that little bit slow and off the mark, are amusing spoofs of more sophisticated action films. With this challenge in mind, perhaps sensing that the Lord needs some support in the second half, writer-director Demarbre has Christ call on an ally, the famous Mexican wrestling legend Santo (well, okay, not the real celebrity, just a fat guy in a mask). One standout scene features the two, battling vampires in the aptly named Dominion bar. Taking place just after a less than inspirational performance by entertainer Blind Johnny Leper, this battle utilises such disparate items as crutches, billiard cues, and even cocktail sticks as stakes necessary to finish the job.
Foes eventually defeated, Jesus of course confirms matters with a sermon, that "it's the message that's the point, not the messenger" and indeed this salient point might well underline much of the film's success. That one doesn't need an officially approved Christ to make moral points about coping with evil... or, come to that, a hundred million dollars and CGI to make an entertaining movie.
The DVD includes an amusing director's commentary in which he reveals a debt to Russ Meyer as well as recalling the hand-me-down perils of making a film of this budget. Other extras include a substantial amount of deleted footage, as well as the trailer.
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