Quick: Name your favorite movie about Satanist hippies on acid with rabies. If, somehow, your answer was anything other than I Drink Your Blood, we ask that you contact our offices right away. Then again, we may want those of you who managed the correct answer to call as well. Made by writer/director David Durston in 1970, I Drink Your Blood is yet another one of those vintage drive-in features whose distribution network pretty much eliminated the possibility of its reaching a certain audience in its day. Although the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Thomas has gone on record with an enthusiastic quote, we’re guessing that not a lot of established critics had a go at it then or any time since.
Fangoria’s DVD release (including more extras than you might guess that a film entitled I Drink Your Blood could generate) may change that to a modest extent. And this critic will go on record as concurring with at least part of Thomas’s summation: I Drink Your Blood is indeed “edge of the seat entertainment.”
I’m not under the misconception that it’s art or anything like it. But bearing in mind what it is – exploitation filmmaking – I Drink Your Blood stands head-and-shoulders above most of its peers, and it’s a lot of fun to boot. (And speaking of misconceptions, no one drinks anyone else’s blood at any time in the film, although some is eaten.) The picture chronicles the unimaginable woes that befall a small town in upstate New York following the arrival there of a hippie cult called S.A.D.O.S., or Sons and Daughters of Satan. Led by Horace Bones (played, unbelievably, by Bhaskar, a man lauded at the time, by the likes of the New York Times, as being one of the great interpreters of traditional, eastern Indian dance), this cult is initially more mean-spirited than murderous. But when the group beats a young woman who witnesses one of their ceremonies and then drugs her grandfather with LSD, the ante is perilously upped.
How far up? Little Pete (played by a very young Jodie Foster), reacting to the unpleasant experience of seeing Grandpa on acid, extracts blood from a rabid dog and injects it into the meat pies served to S.A.D.O.S. for their lunch. (This is actually what happens in the movie, although of course it’s not Jodie Foster spreading the rabies; the actor’s name is Riley Mills, but he’s such a dead ringer for Foster that it causes double-takes.) Before long the rabid cult has infected a construction crew, via an easy and attractive female member, and soon sleepy Sharon Springs has become the kind of place where you might get rabies just by going out to check the mail.
Part of what’s enjoyable here is simply competence; emerging as it does from the context of drive-in features, it comes as a surprise when you first realize that I Drink Your Blood is not just coherent but fairly inventively plotted. Durston has provided motives and characters are given recognizable traits. And there are lots of these characters; I was particularly struck by the variety of the cult, which includes Horace, the aforementioned tramp, a relatively nice guy, a genuine sadist to balance him, a deaf/mute girl, a pregnant woman, and an older Asian woman who carries a parasol, reads Tarot cards, and, near the finale, coolly sets herself aflame.
In its closing act, I Drink Your Blood becomes too much of a free-for-all, and its ending is strangely abrupt. (By the time the entire town is infected or about to be, the film strongly resembles George Romero’s The Crazies, which followed two years later.) There are gratuitous elements throughout: a rat hunt with resulting carcasses, an impaling, and so on, and the production and acting are a mixed bag. Still, unnecessary gore and uneven sound are hallmarks of the genre. If you know what you’re getting into, I Drink Your Blood is probably just what you need.
Review by Jake Euker © 2003 filmcritic.com