Combustible Celluloid
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With: Stephen Tyrone Williams, Zaraah Abrahams, Rami Malek, Elvis Nolasco, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Joie Lee, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Jeni Perillo, Katherine Borowitz, Donna Dixon, Chiz Schultz, Lauren Macklin, Steven Hauck, Stephen Henderson, Nate Bova
Written by: Spike Lee, Bill Gunn
Directed by: Spike Lee
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 123
Date: 02/13/2015

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Hess' Mess

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Spike Lee's Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is a remake of an obscure 1970s cult item, Ganja and Hess, about black vampires. You'd think that after the drubbing he received for his last remake, Oldboy, he would have stayed away. And, despite his high style and his passion, he has created an oddly flat movie. As you're watching, it makes you recall -- or imagine -- the 1970s version. It must have been more of a head trip. Lee's movie feels less trippy than it feels like treading water (or blood).

Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams) is a collector of African artifacts, among them a strange blade covered with mysterious markings. A guest in his beautiful Martha's Vineyard home, Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco), tries to kill Hess with the blade, but Hess comes back to life, kills Hightower, and drinks his blood. He slowly learns about his newfound vampiric abilities, finding new victims and stealing a blood supply from a hospital. When Hightower's wife Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams) arrives, Hess falls for her and plans to make her into a vampire as well.

The original was made at a time of political upheaval (and was known for being the only other starring role of Night of the Living Dead actor Duane Jones), but Lee's version doesn't seem to have any real purpose. The acting is stiff, and the pacing is slow; as a horror show it's anemic. Die-hard Spike Lee fans will delight in his unique filmic touches that, it's safe to say, don't really turn up in any other film. Bruce Hornsby's score adds a melancholy strangeness that definitely helps, and a seemingly unconnected title credits sequence features a beautiful dance. Lee funded this with a Kickstarter campaign, and Anchor Bay released it on Blu-ray in May of 2015. It has no extras.

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