I Drink Your Blood (1970)
Buveurs de sang
Dipsao gia aima
La Rabbia dei Morti Viventi
First off let me say that I know some of you will disagree that this is a zombie film. Well, it's a zombie film in the same way that 28 Days Later is a zombie film, where you've got lots of angry people running around with a highly infectious disease that makes them want to kill. Luckily for the world, the outbreak in I Drink Your Blood (rabies) is in a remote town where most of the residents have already evacuated due to a new dam being built nearby, so an apocalypse as in 28 Days Later doesn't seem likely to occur. This doesn't make things any easier for the remaining residents, though; an old veterinarian and his grandkids, the owner of the local bakery, and her boyfriend, the foreman of the dam construction, find themselves in particular trouble.
I can see why this movie got an X rating. (It was the first movie rated X for violence instead of sex.) For the time, it was really pushing the boundary. Although there was a number of naked people running around, the violence was the main culprit. Most of the violence will seem tame to people used to today's standards, but some of the scenes with animals left me pretty sure that they had forfeited their right to have the "No animals were harmed..." clause in their credits. I don't recall seeing such a clause, and given their budget, I doubt that they had expensive fake animals made for the filming. Those scenes bothered me enough that it detracted from my enjoyment of the movie, so animal lovers, consider youself warned.
Everything starts going bad when a band of acid-taking, devil-worshipping, free-loving hippies come into town. Only the acid-taking and devil-worshipping were necessary for the story, and it seems like the free-loving and being a hippie were thrown in for good measure. I suppose it's possible that writer/director David Durston really did lump everyone who wasn't completely square into the same category, but I find it hard to believe that a film director in the late 60's really disapproved of hippies that much. It seems more likely that he was poking fun of mainstream society's fear of alternative lifestyles, and that society lumps them all in the same category. Or maybe he really wasn't trying to be political at all, and just needed a group of people who participated in both blood sacrifice and drug use.
The movie opens with the head of the hippies, Horace (Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury), leading the group in a naked sacrifice of a chicken to their Lord Satan. When a local girl, Sylvia (Iris Brooks), witnesses their ceremony, they capture her and beat her, and then let her go. There also seems to be an implication that she's sexually assualted, but she bounces back emotionally from the incident so quickly that it doesn't seem likely it could have happened. Sylvia's grandpa is the local vet, and he tracks down the hippies with a shotgun to take revenge. Unfortunately, the hippies easily best him and force him to take LSD, giving him a good beating as well. At this point Sylvia's brother, Pete (Riley Mills), takes matters into his own hands, injecting blood from a rabid dog into the meat pies that the hippies eat for breakfast. The hippies start going insane and attacking people, and Pete realizes his error as the situation grows out of control.
The movie started out well, but lost steam later on as Durston tried to keep up with all the various subplots. Although the plot advanced here and there, it seemed like most of the latter half of the movie was dedicated to skipping around to each rabid hippie and the mischief he or she was getting into, which was mildly entertaining but didn't really draw me in. The movie is much more interesting when the hippies are rational, and you get to see the dynamic within their group and their interactions with the townspeople. Horace in particular, their leader, is an interesting character to watch. After they all got rabies, though, he's just another crazy killer, and the movie turns into a mediocre slasher.
I give this movie a "meh." If you don't mind cruelty to animals, you might give it a "meh-plus." It's got some interesting characters and scenes, and a good beginning, but these aren't quite enough to overcome the blah ending.