Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blood Stalkers (1976)

          It’s probably best to begin by listing all the things this low-budget horror flick is not. Despite the title, the subject matter doesn’t concern vampires or zombies or any other plasma-craving monsters. And lest any of the following remarks give a different impression, Blood Stalkers is not a good movie by any measure. It’s amateurish and goofy and sluggish, burdened with clichéd characters and trite dramatic situations. Having said all that, Blood Stalkers has tangential connections to Bigfoot, who was very much in vogue at the time this picture was released, and the picture hits its stride as a nihilistic shocker during the final 30 minutes or so. All of which is to say that if you dig the elements contained herein, Blood Stalkers makes for an adequate empty-calories snack.
          The sketchy narrative begins with two couples driving into the Everglades for a vacation. Mike (Jerry Albert) recently inherited a remote cabin, and he’s brought his reluctant wife, Kim (Toni Crabtree), and their friends Daniel (Ken Miller) and Jeri (Celea Ann Cole) along for the ride. Upon arriving in swamp country, Mike clashes with a grubby gas-station proprietor (Herb Goldstein), who gives the standard get-outta-here-if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you rap. Naturally, because he’s a character in a dumb horror movie, Mike ignores the advice. Things get weird immediately thereafter, because three gun-toting slobs, who look less like Deliverance rejects and more like members of a redneck militia, show up at the gas station to wave guns at the newcomers. Again, Mike proceeds despite the clear danger to himself and his friends, which means that logic is not a factor in what follows. After Mike’s group settles into the cabin, they’re frightened by mysterious creatures that are referred to by locals as “blood stalkers,” whatever that means. The siege grows more intense each passing night, with hairy Bigfoot-like monsters eventually putting their hands on members of Mike’s group.
          Eventually, the movie develops a queasy sort of tension because things get ultraviolent, complete with over-the-top gore. None of it makes much sense, but it’s hard to look away from bizarre scenes featuring slow-mo chases and cuts to gospel singers. (Don’t ask.) And while the onscreen Bigfoot stuff is a bit of a tease, the offscreen connection to Sasquatch lore is real. Robert W. Morgan, who wrote and directed Blood Stalkers in addition to playing one of the menacing rednecks, appeared in several ’70s documentaries as a self-proclaimed Bigfoot hunter. He cut a memorably ridiculous figure in those projects, so it’s unsurprising that Blood Stalkers, his sole directorial effort, is simultaneously earnest and stupid. For better or worse (mostly worse), Morgan approached his contributions to ’70s pop culture with fierce commitment.

Blood Stalkers: FUNKY