Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Had it been up to me, I would have gone with the working title and just called this Blacula Is Beautiful. That would have been far more catchier than what they ended up going with, and at least to my ears such a funky title would have lent itself more naturally to the plot of the movie that dealt with Blacula dabbling with Voodoo. In terms of quality, Scream Blacula Scream certainly isn’t a very good movie, but it does have it’s brief moments of brilliance. I haven’t see the first movie yet, but I kinda do want to see it, because this feels very much like a fast and poorly made cash grab sequel to a much better movie. William H. Marshall as Blacula is great and he shines every time he’s given some proper dialog to deliver, and he has good screen presence that manages to sell the Blacula concept.

I have to admit Pam Grier was a bit forgettable in this. She’s far less foxy and in control than usual and instead plays mostly a hapless victim that gets strung along without much of her own agency, but on the positive side she does share very nice chemistry with Marshall so it’s not a complete disaster. Unfortunately they don’t share that much screen time together so it’s a bit of a one step forwards, two steps back type of a deal.

The very first fifteen minutes of the movie are excruciatingly boring, just about nothing interesting happens and even the Voodoo ritual that resurrects Blacula from the land of the dead ends up being fairly forgettable and disappointing. But once Blacula’s resurrected with some bad juju and we’re through with the opening credits sequence, the the movie quickly finds its blaxploitation footing and the movie starts to become pretty enjoyable, although only at certain times. For example we immediately get Willis, the man behind Blacula’s resurrection and ironically his first victim, going on a miniature rant about how it ain’t cool for a brother to not be able to see himself in the mirror no more (thanks to having become a vampire), followed by him asking Blacula if he looks presentable enough to attend a party, las if he was an insecure teenage girl getting ready for the prom. The entire scene is delightfully odd and off-kilter, considering not two minutes earlier we were watching Blacula attack and suck Willis dry of his blood.Speaking of drinking blood, the vampire portions of the movie kinda suck, pun intended. With Blacula, the kitsch factor actually makes it work, it’s goofy fun looking at a black man doing his best over dramatic Bela Lugosi’s Dracula impression when he’s about to take another slurp of blood from the nearest neck, but whenever you have one of Blacula’s underlings on screen, it’s horrible. For whatever reason the stage direction for them seems to have been “be as wooden as humanly possible” and it ruins entirely the scenes near the end when they’re mobbing against the police. The make up for them is also absolutely horrendous, so much so that they look exactly like walking zombies rather than blood thirsty vampires, it’s that ridiculous. And not only that, they even move like zombies! Slow, arms extended, no real recognizable individuality… It’s almost as if the extras didn’t get the memo saying they were meant to be vampires.

They do get one or two things right about the vampire stuff though. There are two instances where Blacula and then one of his minion leaps towards a helpless victim, and while doing so, they appear to basically be gliding in the air with this weird, kinda blueish lighting hitting their face. The effect looked super goofy but it has a little sense of eerie dread to it due to how unnatural it makes the actors look, combined with the fact that you’re seeing a ghoul with fangs leaping towards you. Another thing they did good job with was the effects when Blacula transforms himself to a bat, I wasn’t expecting it to be that well done, honestly. The idea that Blacula wants to use Voodoo to exorcise the demonic vampyrism from his body so he can be a normal human being is also a pretty neat idea. Unfortunately it only really comes to play at the very end of the movie and before that most of the movie is Blacula just going through the motions, drinking blood from random women (because that’s what all Dracula movies do), pimp slapping some hoodlums and visiting random parties because the plot needs Blacula to meet Pam Grier somehow. The poor script really is the biggest problem, it makes the entire movie feel dumber than it actually is.

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