Blerd Film Club: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

In 1973 Ganja & Hess was an experimental vampire film that bordered on Blaxploitation. Audiences hated the disjointed story telling style and it was quickly pulled from theaters. Despite that, the film became a cult classic. In 2014 Spike Lee crowdfunded 1.25 million dollars to create a remake titled Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

Dr. Hess is an anthropologist who has come to possesses a sacred dagger from the Ashanti Empire, an advanced African society in the past. He assumes the society became addicted to blood transfusions to make it through the day. His colleague Lafayette Hightower comes to stay with him for a while and they learn the Ashanti weren't using the blood for transfusion but consumption. Lafayette attempts to hang himself from a tree but is talked down by Hess. Lafayette explains his mental health history, including his manipulative Ex-Wife who took all of his money and stays in mental health facilities.

That night, Lafayette attacks Hess and stabs him with the dagger. Coming to his senses he believes he has killed Hess and then commits suicide by shooting himself. Hess awakes and drinks blood from Lafayette's corpse. Slowly he realizes he's addicted to blood now. On one occasion he drinks from a stripper and prostitute named Lucky Mars. Upon drinking he vomits violently before realizing she had HIV. Hess stresses as he awaits his test results. Shortly after learning he didn't contract HIV he receives a call from Ganja Hightower who explains she'll be staying with him until she locates her husband that owes her more money. The two quickly fall and love and Hess introduces her to the world of blood addiction.

There's some big differences from the original. It's much easier to follow, while there are some shot for shot scenes, the overall cinematography is just better. There's interesting performances from well known actors, even if brief. Rami Malek plays a mostly silent butler, Joi Lee a staple of Spike Lee films appears, even if only briefly as a fed up nurse. Stephen Henderson most recently appearing in Fences makes a showing. Elvis Nolasco is only briefly in the film as Lafayette but he's incredible in the role. Snoop from The Wire appears and her yelling "you killded me," sticks with me, even after the film ends because it's both funny and represents the absurdity of it all.

Despite all of that, Spike Lee has a tendency to be heavy handed with the themes of his films as well as drag them out with no real purpose. The original film Ganja & Hess used vampirism as a way to discuss addiction. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus doesn't beat around the bush. I don't recall them using the word vampire, instead simply saying that they were blood addicts. It's beaten into our heads over and over. There's forty of this film that could be cut. There's a 20 minute diversion where Hess brings a woman back to the mansion so Ganja can seduce her, have sex with her and kill her before they bury the body. But, he had already shown her how to kill and drink. There's another twenty minutes cumulative where Hess steps out to try seducing a single mother that serves no point.

I have a love hate relationship with Spike Lee films, and I can't say this is one that I love, or hate. I might love it if he trimmed it down and stopped being so heavy handed, there's no reason this should be a two hour movie. On the flip side, I can't say I hate it anywhere near as much as I hate Red Hook Summer. I suppose the one thing I can say is that this is a Spike Lee film, even if this isn't the normal Spike Lee genre.

Perhaps Da Sweet Blood of Jesus suffers from that fact that the source material, isn't that great. Spike really did make improvements to the script even if he got a little heavy handed. Still, it isn't a good story. One thing Spike does, and it may not have been on purpose, explained creating thralls vs other vampires. I know that may be kind of deep for people not into vampire films and books. Perhaps that's my problem with both Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and Ganja & Hess. I like vampires, and I don't mind experimenting with them. I create new types of vampires all the time in my web serial Exsanguinate. There's no vampires here, just addicts going through blood withdrawals, all downs and no ups. I just don't find that entertaining. There's no horror, no vampires and the only thing I received was some good acting and the mandatory Pan-Africanism thoughts required in Blaxploitation or a Spike Lee Joint. 

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Blerd Film Club: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Blerd Film Club: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Reviewed by Darrell S. on Sunday, February 21, 2021 Rating: 5

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