Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baby Blood (1990)

Written by: Serge Cukier, Alain Robak
Directed by: Alain Robak
Emmanuelle Escourrou as Yanka
Christian Sinniger as Lohman
Gary Oldman as the Creature

In the fall of 2001, I started my higher learning career (get a writing degree, kids, it'll open up a whole new world of writing shit for free on the internet) at Wartburg College. In need of a little extra scratch, I took on a part time job at the local video rental shop, the now defunct Movies America. DVD was still new enough that the store was primarily VHS, and watching a movie online was pretty much out of the question unless you had a spare week or so to kill waiting for it to download.

It was just a shitty little chain store, not a cool mom 'n' pop, but they had a decent selection of horror and exploitation (although in the days of VHS it was almost impossible not to) and overall I had a pretty good time working there. Of course, as I'm sure many of you fellow movie nerds know from experience, the biggest perk of working at a video shop wasn't the paycheck, but the free rentals. Just about every night I'd take something new back to my dorm to check out. Eventually I took to just whipping a bouncy ball down the aisle that had horror down one side and action at the end, ignoring any “special interest” titles that may have gotten knocked down from the opposite side (that term often denotes softcore Skinemax porn in movie shops, but in this case was largely represented by workout videos, which I guess if you're sad and lonely enough could equate to the same thing), and taking whatever fell to the floor.

One night, before the bouncy ball method had been implemented, I took home a movie which I now know was called The Evil Within. It was a weird flick, clearly originally in a foreign language of some flavor, most likely French given the names of cast and crew. It told the story of a girl who worked at a carnival, who got impregnated by some kind of octopus-like creature that made her kill people. And that's about all I remembered of it. I left the video store for a more lucrative record store gig the next year, and never gave it much more thought until years later when I decided I'd like to see it again. By that time I'd joined the Bad Movie Message Board, populated primarily by my friends from B-Fest, so I figured someone there would know it. Snake eyes. Of course, the internet is a great sea of information, but without at least one or two specifics like a title or an actor's name, finding even a movie seemingly unique as this one based solely on a vague description is a fool's errand. You may as well go to the actual sea and cast your line looking for one particular fish without knowing which bait to use. Also, as you might imagine, the Google results for “octopus sex monster horror movie” are both unhelpful and possibly illegal depending on which state you're from.

Fast forward several more years, and talk of a foreign art/horror movie featuring a tentacled sex monster begins to gather momentum. An unreasonably expensive special edition Blu-ray is released, and it begins to get coverage in places like the Projection Booth podcast. Hang on a minute, though. I don't remember Sam Neill being in my mystery flick, and I'd definitely remember that. Also, there's nothing about a circus, and what's all this malarkey about a little kid? Still, this is clearly a real movie, and one that is becoming more and more well known in cult movie circles. Hell, maybe this is what I saw, and I'm just conflating it with something else from the days when I had enough free time to watch at least one movie pretty much every single day. After all, I know I've seen Charles Band's The Alchemist, but I don't remember a goddamn thing about that. Maybe the titular magical metallurgist worked at a sideshow.

It became a one-man mental game of telephone, with the increasingly cloudy memories of this movie echoing around the lower catacombs of my brain, now and again increasing just enough in volume to make me think I should take another poke around, finding even more information about Possession and not a single mention of any other movie even remotely similar. I even sounded the idea off El Santo of 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting a couple of times, figuring that if any of my friends would know what I was talking about, it would be him. Nada. Eventually I legitimately began to think some part of my subconscious, perhaps stirring up the remnants of a long forgotten dream or conversation, had caused me to gaslight myself; perhaps I really had made the whole thing up after all.

Then, just a couple of months ago, I saw one of those clickbait “10 Horror Movies You've Never Seen!” articles on Facebook and the Fickle Finger of Fate went ahead on and clicked. By the boiling bong of Yog-Sothoth, the very first thing I saw was a screen grab I immediately recognized as belonging to the movie that I had, by this point, given up on as a corrupted file and dragged to the trash folder of my mental desktop. Holy shit, it was real! And it was called...Baby Blood? You'd think I'd have remembered a title like that. Probably I would have, except the version I saw was the cut down English version called The Evil Within, which I think I can be forgiven for not remembering, since I can think of at least three other movies with almost identical titles off the top of my head.

We open on some men in darkest Africa, wrestling some snarling creature into a cage. We don't know what it is, because we're seeing the scene through its eyes, but eventually the beast is locked in and carted away to France. As the delivery vehicle nears the end of its journey, the animals at Lohman's Circus all become extremely agitated, pacing around their cages and sending up a racket of displeased sounds. The captured animal is finally revealed to be a new leopard for the big cat trainer to play with. The weaselly animal broker goes poking around for the boss and instead catches an eyeful of his voluptuous girlfriend Yanka getting out of the shower. Lohman catches the peeper in the act, but seems to place as much blame for the incident on Yanka as on the other man. You see, Lohman is an abusive shitbird, so when some tentacled thing tears its way out of the leopard, slithers up Yanka's vagina, and takes up residence in her womb, it doesn't have to work too hard to convince her to run away from the circus and make for the big city.

Lohman, to his credit, does show some genuine concern and compassion when his efforts to find Yanka lead him to a ruined apartment building so squalid that the opening of a crack den next door would actually improve the property value. We never get to find out if his concern for her was going to be enough for him to mend his ways, though, because her reaction to his pleas for her to return to the circus with him is to murder the bejeezus out of him and drink from his spurting arteries in a nearly orgasmic rush of pleasure. I know that pregnant women are supposed to get some weird cravings sometimes, but damn! Most of them are perfectly happy with a little Ben and Jerry's!

Once she's had a taste of blood and realizes how good it makes her and her passenger feel, it's off to the races, and by races I mean killing spree. She begins to develop an odd relationship with the creature inside her, sometimes maternal, sometimes a little bit like lovers, sometimes just friends shooting the shit. Things all seem to be going so well until her “pregnancy” has progressed to the point where the creature is ready to come out and return to its natural habitat of the sea, which requires Yanka to find transportation to the beach. This proves rather difficult considering she can't stop killing and eating everyone she meets. Finally, in desperation, she hitches a ride on a bus full of horny football players (that's soccer to you, uncouth American pigdog), which turns out to be a really bad idea.

It's not often that the weak point of a monster movie is the monster, and in this case I'm not talking about the creature effects. You only see the little squidbilly for about ten seconds at the very end, and while not exactly the most mobile and well-constructed of creatures, the design is fine and it does what it needs to do. Bela Lugosi could have made fine work of wrestling with it in a pond.

You see, the first few minutes of the movie are the creature explaining to us, over stock footage of volcanic eruptions, that at the dawn of time, single celled organisms begat sea creatures which begat land-dwelling creatures and the whole world was an explosion of life evolving, except for one thing; our thing. It simply sat in the water and waited until the time was right for it to find a womb to grow in. Which is fucking ridiculous, because it implies that this creature, unlike all other life on earth, popped into existence as a fully formed one-of-a-kind squid fetus with no way to propagate its species, went dormant for eons until life evolved to the point of actually having wombs, then spent the next several hundred million years crawling from one animal's womb to the next hoping this time it would be the right one. Of course, a human womb proved to be just the ticket because I'm sure Cukier and Robak thought that meant something French and artsy, except THIS FUCKING THING HAS CLEARLY HAD ALL KINDS OF CONTACT WITH HUMANS ALREADY AND HAD ROUGHLY 100,000 YEARS IN THE CRADLE OF HUMANITY ITSELF TO PICK ONE!

Then, to make matters even dumber, it explains to Yanka at the end that now it's finally had its nine months of gestation in her womb after roughly 3.8 billion years of waiting for just the right one, it needs to return to the sea so that it can evolve into its final form and prepare for conquest of the human race...IN FOUR OR FIVE MILLION MORE YEARS AFTER IT'S FIGURED OUT HOW TO GROW FUCKING LEGS! Once again, this creature has existed for almost four billion goddamn years without growing or changing so much as a single cell, and for some inexplicable reason it required gestating in the womb of another life form the existence of which it couldn't possibly have predicted, before spending another several million years willing itself to evolve into yet another form capable of taking over the planet. Uff da.

Now, you might assume on the basis of the last two paragraphs that I don't like this movie very much. I can understand how you'd get that impression, because the exposition we get about the monster is incredibly fucking stupid. However, the dialog which causes the problem can't take up more than two minutes of screen time, which makes it mercifully easy to ignore while you're enjoying the rest of the movie, and it is on the whole a highly enjoyable movie.

The performances are all pretty solid. Even the voice actors on the English dub. Especially Yanka and the creature, despite some of the idiotic shit it's given to say. In fact, I'd actually recommend watching the dub over the subtitled French version, since the Anchor Bay DVD replaces all the excised footage. In that, the voice of the creature is provided by the director (under the delightful pseudonym Roger Placenta), with some annoying digital effects added to make sure you know it's a monster talking. In the dub the voice is provided, effects-free, by none other than a pre-stardom Gary Oldman!

That excised footage I mentioned? I think a good deal of it was gore footage, because of all the things that stuck with me all those years, gore wasn't one of them. Having seen the uncut version now, I have to say this is one incredibly gory movie, and I've seen some stuff! We're talking Evil Dead levels of blood spray, easily. That's a doubly apt comparison here too, since a lot of the gore is used less to shock than to enhance the movie's pitch-black sense of humor. My favorite example is when Yanka hijacks a taxi cab, runs down a jogger with it, beats him to death with the car's onboard jack, winds up like she's aiming to kick the game-winning field goal, and punts his head clean off his shoulders, all while the cabbie is having a fit of the screaming ooperzootics in the back seat.

In short, give Baby Blood a look. If I can let the stupid monster back story go, then probably so can you, and what you'll find between those unfortunate couple of bookending minutes is a darkly funny, gore-soaked romp headed up by a sexy chick who spends a fair portion of the movie nekkid, and the rest of it chatting with Gary Oldman pretending to be a tentacled monster from the dawn of time.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting twist on the "tentacle monster" trope. Sounds like my kind of movie!