Director: Holly Dale
Canada - 1995
Vampires. Ive always loved vampires. Yes, yes, Im aware of the Goth-chic
attitude, where vampires are darkly beautiful but tragically damned, and there is a kind
of bleak attraction to that, regardless of how cliché it might be. However, I could
easily imagine plenty of more fun ways to spend eternity than brooding around the empty
streets of the city, late at night. Or hanging around in Goth clubs, making fun of any who
arent as darkly beautiful or tragically damned as myself. I mean, Im only
mortal, but that seems like too much of a drag, man.
All the same, vampires can be fun, both as villains, comic foils, or antiheroes. The
innumerable Draculas. Innocent Blood. Love At First Bite. I Was A
Teenage Vampire. Near Dark. Fright Night. And, of course, Blood and
I always used to call them doughnuts, by the way. After all, theyre made out of
fried dough, right? But it seems like nearly everybody these days calls them donuts. Guess
its easier, without the silent "ugh."
(Side Note: Now, Ive been catching a lot of teasing from my darling wife, George,
for my meandering openings. Like its bad to set the scene, or something. I mean, its not like we really have any previews in a print
review, to get you warmed up for the main feature, like my opening musings tend to do. But
out of deference for at least trying a different way, Ill skip the lengthy set-up,
dear reader. Lets go right to the film. And feel free to write in with an opinion
The movie opens with telemetry audio and video of the moon landing, moving on with a
nice orchestral track behind the old-TV clips
a somewhat arty touch, which tips you
that this is definitely not a Hollywood Blockbuster. To clear things up, its a
Canadian film. That means its bound to be innovative and creative, with little
"commercial appeal." This is a good thing, friends, at least in terms of
"different" film fare. As Buddy said once on The Kids In The Hall:
"Its great! It wont make a dime!"
Where was I? Oh, yes. On-screen text comes up. "In 1969 Man walked on the
and Boya crawled into a bag." Yes, this will make sense in a moment.
Now we get odd. "Mr. Sandman" starts playing, one of a host of 50s and
60s favorites on the soundtrack. Spiffy steel-toed cowboy boots walk onto a rocky
beach-type area, some distance in front of the Toronto skyline. Then whack, he starts
hitting golf balls. Toward the city, of course. Wouldnt want to asphyxiate a whale
or anything. Anyway, remember those boots, kiddies; youll see them again.
As credits appear on the black screen, we cut to flashes of action. One golf ball
smacks into an old building, knocking things over and causing the ceiling to collapse.
Thus is Boya Zsekely (Gordon Currie) introduced, with many simple details showing his age,
not the least of which is his bad suit. Hes a mousy-looking guy with shoulder-length
hair, and he staggers about, cracking joints back into place much like McLeod in Highlander
II: The Quickening, after he fell down the elevator shaft. Remember, if you wake up
after 25 or so years of sleeping in a ceiling, go to a chiropractor or whatever the
temporal equivalent is right away. Itll save time in the long run.
Then we are introduced to a middle-aged beautician (Fiona Reid), who senses a presence
she has not felt since
She goes to the bathroom, and tugs at her throat-scarf. Bite
marks. Are we getting a picture of the set-up? The nice touch is that its painted so
elegantly, with simple imagery and a few touches. Very little need for introductory
narration or captioning, nor expository lumps of stage-setting. Just remember Occams
Razor: given two options, the simplest one is usually the correct one. It works in art, as
well as in science.
Boya stumbles around, allowing Currie full leave to act like a freak. He seems to have
fun with it; Boya resembles more like something out of George A. Romero than out of Anne
Rice. He bends like hes made of cardboard. Unearthly grace of the undead, terrible
and swift predators of humanity, my butt. Heres a guy just woken up after about 30
years, still trying to get his body to work properly. He needs time to limber up, but
hes on a mission, has to travel.
But hes not helpless. When he senses prey, he doesnt need to be swift or
agile; hes got strength enough to pick up a man like a hes made of sponge. Dry
sponge; David Letterman and his sponge suit proved that wet sponge weighs ever so much
more. In any case, yeah, he could kill, but you find hes got a heart. A
tortured soul? Predator with guilt? Well, yeah, thats a common trope. Its
usually more entertaining when the vampires know theyre evil, and have fun with it.
Witness Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But this does have some potential. I
mean, theyve hardly been treating Boya like a classic vampire, theyll do
something interesting with this, too.
Were now introduced to our next main character, Earl (Justin Louis) the taxi
driver. Hes got an odd accent, but I think hes supposed to be Quebecois. I
dont know for sure, myself. In any case, hes a mild kind of guy, talkative.
Our vampire remains polite, and asks to go to a local graveyard.
This next bit is probably my favorite, out of a number of runners-up, and its the
only one Ill describe in any detail. Earl sees Boyas face, and while hes
at first paranoid, he mistakes Boyas reactions for grief. "Its cool, you
know, Ive been there. Guys got this thing about crying. Man, its just
emotion." He flips down his visor, revealing a picture of a poodle, and taps it,
getting misty. "My dog died
you know, I wouldnt trust a guy who
couldnt cry, no, because I think that were just human, huh? Thats all,
thats who we are, were human." Ah, the caring, vulnerable soul of the
taxi driver. Those zany Canadians! In an American movie, the man would have his glove
compartment full of left thumbs
Of course, there is such a thing as being too Canadian, like when they make a Canadian
money reference. I dont know what thats about (I think Boyas money is
old-style, but I didnt know that they switched currency) but a good Queen reference
is always good for a chuckle from me. Call it a weakness.
Boyas out for his personal items. He buried them, naturally, before he went to
sleep. When he digs them up, we again see Canadian whimsy. A vampire who plays the
accordion. Mind you, its not in the same class as a Terrance and Phillip joke, but
then again, what is? And we see that, yes, in addition to being humane, Boya is also
sentimental. He keeps a scrapbook, and a wallet with a picture of his old sweetie, now the
beautician, in it. And hes masochistic; he sticks the picture into his scrapbook
with his own blood, whispering "Rita" while he does so. Now, Im no
adhesivologist, but I would expect the binding qualities of blood to be less effective,
than, say, mucilage. Which, let the record show, does not taste like sweet honey, so
ignore the assurances of untrustworthy robots on that score.
Okay, after the rather graphic scrapbook scene, we are introduced to the next
characters in a tiny 24 hour donut joint. Two thugs amble in, tall Pierce (Frank Moore)
and slightly greasy Axel (Hadley Kay), and start to harass the pretty counter-girl, Molly
(Helene Clarkson). Theyre looking for Earl, who is a regular here, but Mollys
not going to help. Shes like a tall, darker Laura San Giacomo, which is a good
thing. She talks tough enough, and the thugs dont press it.
When Earl does come in, later, he banters with Molly about crullers, and finally
settles on a glazed. Donuts are actually a very central part of this movie, living up to
their role in the title, Earls insistence on his donut of choice is hardly unusual,
as the movie goes on. It seems Earl is a loveable loser, and Molly puts up with him. We
all know people like that, who are sometimes more trouble than theyre worth, but are
just charming enough that you let them stick around. Heck, Im one of those people,
just ask my George.
Pierce and Axel show up just as Earl is leaving, and they press him into service. Seems
they need a wheelman, and Earl apparently owes them, so theyre going to use his cab
to go about their nefarious thuggy business. As opposed to Thuggee business; that would be
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which this movie certainly isnt. Not
that its not charming, but an action movie, it doesnt even try to be.
Our vampire wanders through the bad part of town in his leather coat and toting his big
suitcase. He still hasnt loosened up
which is obvious when he straightens his
neck with the sound of popping vertebrae. He hasnt loosened up enough to speak well,
but he manages to get a room in a cheap hotel, and is marvelously attuned to the sounds
and scents of the rats and the other patrons. He again has the urge to feed
time, he does this weird scenting/hunting thing at the wall. I cant really describe
it, but its fascinating. He reminds me of our cat, Proton Accelerator, when he gets
into a hiding mood. Though, of course, Proton doesnt punch through a wall and drag
out a rat to suck dry with disgusting sound effects. Mores the pity.
After that snack, Boya gazes out his window, and sees
the donut shop.
Back to Earl and the thugs. Its the little pieces in the movie that just endear themselves to me. Earl sits in his cab, trying to regain some
self-respect after being intimidated by the thugs, and he looks in the mirror, and mangles
the classic line. Sometimes, it just doesnt pay to be too polite, Earl, you have to
Now, if Earl were just going to do his job, he would be free and clear, and we would
have very little plot to move us along. So, naturally, he panics, and drives off, leaving
Pierce and Axel behind. But hes so honest, he has to stop at a red light. He uses
the time wisely, thinking up an excuse. But as hes putting his story together, Rita
gets into the cab, and asks to go to the old cemetery. Funny, that.
Boya meets up with Molly, trying to talk small, but not really doing a good job of it.
He does seem fascinated by the sheer variety of donuts, and the importance that is placed
on them by the patrons. To be frank, I like it, too. Reminds me of the fixation on coffee
and pie in Twin Peaks, which may not have been Canadian, but probably should have
I do love this Boya. I mean, hes moving a bit better, but is still clunky,
turning at the shoulders rather than the neck, having difficulty with expressions and
facing people directly. Its a great performance, very odd, not entirely unlike Jeff
Bridges Starman in the movie of the same name, except its not that hes
alien to human mannerisms, its that hes dead and not put all the way back
together again. Not something you see every day.
Pierce and Axel show up in a bowling alley, talking to their boss in the alley bar.
Their boss is Stephen, played by David Cronenberg. Yes, the director of eXisTenz, Crash,
The Fly, Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly, The Dead
Zone, and innumerable others. I still get the occasional Videodrome
nightmare. Regardless, theyre having this little philosophical discussion about why
people wear bowling shoes. Its fascinating. You know Cronenberg is playing a crime
lord of some sort, but his is the educated kind. Hes smart, and while hes not
afraid to be brutal, hes got standards, at least about footwear. You get the feeling
that hed justify his essentially parasitical profession as being Social Darwinist
necessity or being an example of the success of human individuality over the limiting
constraints of legality.
Hes telling them to deal with Earl, because he rolled out when they were still
dealing with business. Then he gives Pierce money to buy Axel some decent footwear. Ah,
those Canadians. I want to be Canadian. Oh, Canada
bum bum bum bum BUM baaaaa
At the graveyard, Earl has déjà vu. Rita gets out, and Earl talks to himself.
"Must be tourist season."
They do a good job with the moody shots, throughout. The cinematography is rarely truly
inspired, but has its moments, and is always more interesting than the workmanlike efforts
of most studio efforts these days. They spend a good deal of time in the graveyard, later,
as Rita remains there until she meets up with Boya, later on. One day, I hope to find a
graveyard that is as consistently spooky in real life as this one is in this movie.
Thats where I want to be buried. No, wait, Im being cremated (with luck, only
after I die), so I guess Im lying. Sorry. Id still like to find that
graveyard, though, and just hang out there. With all the Goth kids.
Earl banters/bickers with Molly, back at the donut shop. We find out that "Bernie,
owning the place, has the firm belief that any jerk off the street deserves at least a
well-made donut and a safe place to eat it." Its a wise and noble sentiment.
When later we see Bernie (J. Winston Carroll), in his few on-screen appearances, he gives
the impression of a wise man, a philosopher in his own right, what Cronenberg might have turned into, had he directed
himself toward donuts rather than crime, or filmmaking. But alas, what is done is done.
Bernie can continue to seek enlightenment through pastry-making, but for the others, they
must find their own paths.
Boya sits and watches from the corner, until Pierce and Axel show up. They take Earl
outside, brooking no objection, and Pierce gives Boya the Hairy Eyeball. Frankly, if I saw
someone who looked half-dead but still gave me that stare that Boya had, Id give him
the eye, too. Particularly if I was a thug up to no good. There are the sounds of beating,
and our vampy boy is having a hard time dealing. There is a particularly cruel use of
lemon juice, just before Boya steps in, acting appropriately freaky, tossing Axel around
and intimidating the hell out of Pierce.
Then Earl must, naturally, bond with the man. He rambles on, and on, while Boyas
attentions are elsewhere. Actually, we get to see them as they roam, in a neat little bit
of swooping camera work and sound effects. His senses swing around the shop, finally
fixating on Mollys breathing and heartbeat
forming a connection. What is it
with these undead horn-dogs? I mean, sure, hes been out of circulation for 30 years,
but Id at least look around a bit before latching onto a pretty woman. Granted,
Molly is eminently latchable, but still, come on, guy. Theres a lot of bats in the
belfry, fella, no need to pick the first one that looks like she might have rabies. No,
wait, thats not really a good analogy. Well, anyway, you get my point.
Boyas still all twitchy, as if wanting to act swiftly and then clamping down on
those impulses. He does offer his floor-space to Earl if he needs it, since the thugs are
probably trashing Earls place as they speak. Actually, he seems more like hes
coming on to the taxi driver, what with his odd, unmoving hair and the half-still,
half-twitchy way he moves.
Woah, as I think of that, a Kids In The Hall sketch suddenly gains a bit more
Regardless. This begins a kind of homosexual ambivalence that echoes throughout the
movie. At times it seems like Boyas a simple soul, not realizing how his displays of
friendship might be interpreted in another way. On the other hand, at least once, he seems
to make a kind of joke about it. Its hard to say what the movie is trying to say
about vampire sexuality. Hes certainly predominantly hetero, but its not to
say that he doesnt have bi leanings. Should we even put labels of sexuality on a
creature thats no longer strictly human? At least, thats what we usually term
vampires. Though once they were human, they have changed. And thats the curse,
In any case, after we see more of Boyas entertaining hunting methods, and watch
some bad cover lying, Boya offers to walk Molly home. Shes a big bookworm, it seems,
and he does all but offer to carry her books for her. It is on this walk that he reveals his deep-seated belief that every human life
is special. Man, everybodys a philosopher in this movie. Even the vampires are
getting into the act. Next thing you know, Earl will be spouting off about the honesty of
oh, wait, he already did that.
So, exactly how textbook does the rest of it unfold? Well, were aware hes A
Vampire With A Conscience, so its bound to be some sort of redemption game. We
know theres a building tension between Boya and Molly, so thats got to come to
some sort of resolution. Not to mention the continuing bitterness of Rita; thats
going to have some kind of effect, as well. And, naturally, theres Earl, Pierce,
Axel, and David Cronenberg to worry about.
They manage to pull off some effective cheesecake, naturally, but being
equal-opportunity Canadians, they manage to put in a little beefcake, as well. Boya spends
an inordinate amount of time in the bathtub (are vampires aquatic?). Molly turns out to be
smarter than most in this kind of movie; she figures things out early, and doesnt
waste time with "this cant be happening" crap. Earl is much more amusing,
on the other hand. And Rita would make exactly the kind of vampire that the Goth kids so
love. Its great fun.
And, of course, people get their rewards. There is one part, however, that really does
kind of stick in my craw. Okay, so, theyve got this mortal dying of, like, internal
injuries. And they do some emergency McGuyver stuff involving a car and some donuts. Oh,
yes, we get to the point where donuts help save a life. So they do this thing, and then
all of a sudden, woah, apparently the internal injuries are gone. The hell? I mean, that
kind of thing just doesnt go away, you know? A collapsed lung isnt going to
un-collapse just because you did some freaky special effects sequence. And, of course,
when it gets down to it, it seems like Boya is just too willing to let death happen. Sure,
hes been living with it for so long, it may be old hat to him, but we, the living,
cant give it up that easy.
Ah, but who am I to complain? I got a good solid vamp movie out of the deal, with some
fun twists and changes on the vampire myth, and probably the least slick vampire Ive
seen on film. Hell, youd have to have Urkel as a vampire to get a less smooth
In any case, it was solid, and the quirky musical selections make it even more surreal.
I know, I know, a vampire movie is supposed to be surreal (not necessarily as surreal as John
Carpenters Vampire$, mind you
), but this worked even better. Each
character, or at least each relationship in the movie, seemed to have its own little
theme, echoing opera in a way similar to the Star Wars trilogy. However, the music
was arranged by a person billed as Nash the Slash, so Im not going to assume
anything for certain.
It was relatively low budget, made on a shoestring, regardless of Cronenbergs
involvement. And yet, and yet, such well-done short sketches of characters, so effective.
Its got some art to it, yet not so much that the art is the only thing going for it.
There are a few inventive visuals and techniques, but the greatest bulk of it is about average. Its the details that make it,
though. Sure, a little Hoff would have done it good, maybe speeded it up when it dragged
just a tiny bit in the middle or so, but on the whole, a small touch of Hoff is all it
could have used.
On the other hand, Id love to have given it Four Cronenbergs. I cant get
enough of the man. Hes like the James Woods of directors, in the Simpsons way of
viewing it. And he plays his crime boss role with the casual arrogance of a man whos
too smart for his job, yet with the frustration of middle management. Maybe he has a
sadistic streak, which makes his current profession the right one (this would be in the
film and out, alike), but he still approaches it with little more than a mild annoyance.
Mind you, there is a moment when Mr. Cronenberg is getting medieval, so to speak, and he
really seems to be getting into it. But then, Boya gets Gothic on his ass, and that trumps
In any case, my Cronenberg fascination aside, it is a good and quirky movie. Not
mainstream, not "cool" in the recent awful direct-to-video vampire movie kick
(remind me to write about Razor Blade Smile sometime), but funny and quite well
done. True, they placed it in Toronto, which, I believe, is where they placed Forever
Knight, which I think was out at the time this was made, but at least they didnt
make Boya French. Had enough of those French vampires, running around and
being French, and regretful, and all that.
Blood & Donuts. Not the breakthrough vampire hit of 1995, but a worthy entry
in the vast red-tinted panorama of vampire films.
- Boya on the hunt. All the times hes on the hunt. I just like the way he goes
about it, all twitchy and stuff.
- The slow pan that reveals Mollys research and the realization that shes
- That hair, man. Both Boya and Earl. And, of course, Molly, but in a different way.
While Earl has that slick buzz, Boyas got probably the first vampire mullet I can
recall seeing on film. Gotta love that.
- Cronenberg, Cronenberg, Cronenberg. See, while some folks I know have an attraction
to certain beefy Australians, Id pay money for a David Cronenberg Revue. Its
true, hes a bony man, but hes also most assuredly cute, in a striped-haired,
hatchet-faced sort of way. I like that.
Mmmm-mmm-mm. Aint nothing like a good donut.
-- Copyright © 2000 by E. Mark Mitchell
some of your hard-earned cash!