Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood Song (1982)

I’ve talked about “bad movie nights” in previous posts, and how I have a few friends with whom I regularly get together to have a “bad movie night”. Several years ago, one of them invited me to a “bad movie party”. This was unusual, as normally it would just be the two of us suffering through a marathon of questionable films. Once in a while we might have added a third person – or even a fourth – but never had there been a whole party full of people. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to make of this idea.

I am basically an introvert. I do well in one on one situations, but not so well in large groups. If I am in a room full of people I don’t know, I will most often sit quietly in a corner and observe. This is my general survival technique at parties. I find an empty chair in a nice quiet corner and I stay there all night. People who want to talk to me will find me, sit next to me for a while, and then move on. If there is a cat in the house, it will often come and hang out with me. At some parties, a dozen or more people will cycle through the empty seat next to me. At others, I will have long stretches of time to sit and listen to the loud music without having to shout over it.

A “bad movie party” is a slightly different animal. At least I assumed that it would be. I had never been to one before, but I imagined that everyone at the party would be focussed on watching the bad movies. This could be good for me. I would simply need to find a place to sit – not too close to the screen – and quietly watch the movies while other people shout out pithy remarks to each other. I could do that.

When I showed up at the party, the first movie was already well under way. I was surprised to find that there were people scattered all over the place – in the kitchen, the hallways, the dining room – and they were carrying on conversations without any regard for what might be happening on the TV screen in the main living room. Basically, it seemed like a regular, run of the mill party to me.

When I arrived in the living room, I found a moderate sized group of people watching the end of a movie that I didn’t recognize. My host greeted me and I sat down in an empty chair. I don’t normally like watching the end of a movie without seeing the first two thirds, so I didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on. Instead, I quietly conversed with my host as I looked at the stack of movies that were piled up on the coffee table. I was able to determine that another friend of the host’s had brought all of the movies for this event. I had never met him before, but I knew him by reputation. He was a university professor and a novelist. Someone had once told me that he and I would get along really well, as we were both fans of “bad movies”. I think I had even stood next to him once in the lobby of a movie theatre, as he spoke to my friend (and in fact the host of this very party). As he was walking away from us, I asked my friend who he was. My friend was shocked that I didn’t know him. “I’m sorry, I should have introduced you,” he said.

So, now we were at the same party, and this mysterious stranger was in charge of curating the screenings. I figured I was finally going to meet him.

After the first movie ended, the stranger picked up his pile of movies and asked the crowd which one they wanted to se next. He went through each title and tried to briefly describe the movie. I knew which one I wanted to see, even before he was done describing it.

“This seems to be a slasher film starring Frankie Avalon as the killer…”

“I vote for that one,” I said, surprised to find myself speaking out loud in front of a room full of strangers.

“No,” someone else said. “We just watched a crappy horror film. Let’s watch something else.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Weren’t we here to watch crappy horror films?

There was some more discussion of the various films in the pile. Finally I decided to try again.

“I still say we should watch Frankie Avalon killing people.”

The same guy who had contradicted me before, spoke up again. “I’ve seen so many of these films… Just for a change, I’d like to watch something that I don’t already know everything that’s going to happen in.”

So, what are you doing at a bad movie night? I thought to myself.

Thanks to this amateur “bad movie” appreciator, we wound up watching Juggernaut (1974). For those who don’t know, this is a fairly classy, well thought of British suspense drama about time bombs hidden on a ship. It is, to be clear, a GOOD movie. That’s not to say that good movies don’t have a place in a “bad movie” marathon. We often discover hidden gems while screening presumably “bad” movies. But this movie was a class act with an all star cast that included Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, David Hemmings and Anthony Hopkins. And it was close to two hours long. That, it seemed to me, was a lot of time wasted watching a movie that wasn’t going to deliver the “bad movie” goods. 

Perhaps because of this, my friend and host started asking me questions instead of paying attention to the movie. I tried to answer him, quietly, but after a while the same stick in the mud who wanted quality instead of slasher antics asked us to leave the room and talk somewhere else. So we did.

As a result, I did not get a very good sense of Juggernaut. I also did not ever officially meet the curator of the evening. Perhaps we could have been good friends, but it just never happened. 

Ever since that night, I have regretted not getting to see Frankie Avalon play a psychopathic killer. I couldn’t even remember the name of the movie, but I kept my eye out for any horror films starring the former teen idol who used to make those beach party movies with Annette Funicello. One day I found one called Horror House (1969), but it did not seem right to me. Considering my excellent track record when it comes to locating and watching obscure movies, I am shocked that I did not manage to find this one at some point over the next two decades. I suppose I had almost forgotten about it…

Until my friend Ian gave me a cheap-jack DVD with four horror films on it. One of them was called Blood Song (1982). What the hell is that? Upon closer inspection, I saw the name Frankie Avalon – and I suddenly knew that I was about to finally close an open chapter (or should I say open wound) of past “bad movie” watching failure. And what better way to do that, than on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – with no one else around to tell me they’d prefer a less predictable movie?

First of all, I can say that Blood Song is not all that predictable or familiar. It’s not really a slasher film, although it did come out in 1982 at the height of the golden age of slasher films. It was apparently shot in 1980, and it feels much more like a movie from the 1970s. I would say closer to something like I Dismember Mama (1972) than a slasher film. However, I do think that the influence of Halloween (1978) can be felt in its storyline:

As a young boy, Frankie Avalon’s character witnesses the murder/suicide of his parents and is traumatized. Twenty five years later, he escapes from a mental institution and “goes on a rampage”.

Frankie plays a psychopath who talks to people, plays the flute, and seems relatively normal until he suddenly kills them. According to one description of the movie, Frankie seems to be pursuing “a young handicapped girl, who once got a blood transfusion from him.” This is a fairly offbeat idea, and could explain the title of the movie. Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple.

We do find out, in the course of the movie, that the teenage girl – played by Donna Wilkes of Angel (1984) fame – did receive a blood transfusion from Avalon. This was most likely after the car accident that left her requiring a leg brace.

As far as I can tell, Frankie’s character has no idea that he gave blood to Donna’s character. He goes after her because she witnesses him burying a body. So, why the title Blood Song, and why the detail about the blood transfusion? As near as I can figure it, the blood transfusion has somehow given Donna the ability to see visions of Frankie committing his crimes. So, it’s like she has a psychic connection to him now.

This may be something to think about, before you decide to give or receive blood.

In any case, I found Blood Song (1982) to be an entertaining mix of seriously good and hilariously bad moments. It’s the kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that could go over really well at crowded “bad movie party”, or on a lonely FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. And I guarantee that no one will anticipate everything that is going to happen over the course of its 89 minutes.