Monday, April 30, 2007

Blood Sisters (1987)

(Preface: for some reason I cannot find the exact VHS cover image online. There is a similar image on some editions of the DVD, but this is still not the version I refer to here. A black & white representation is found in Samurai Dreams)

While some of my fellow reviewers at Samurai Dreams explicitly prefer the VHS format to DVD, I do not. I have a great fondness for tapes, but the plain fact is that I’d prefer to watch films in their original format (This of course, has nothing to do with my enduring love of tapes; yet it may be necessary to clear any confusion). There is one thing, however, about VHS tapes that is undeniably better than DVDs (at least thus-far): the cover art. Often in DVD design art, the film logo dominates half the case, with a Photoshop-altered still from the film taking up the rest, usually a picture of the lead. A good example is the DVD cover for A History of Violence, a film which even featured an excellent 1-sheet during its theatrical release. There are certainly exceptions, such as the packaging of Criterion Collection discs, or the designs from the folks at NoShame, but on the whole DVD package-design is an afterthought. VHS tapes, on the other hand, often feature fantastic original paintings. I have bought cheap VHS tapes solely for the cover art. While Octaman is goofy fun, I bought it with the intention of displaying the oversized painted cover as an Objet d’Art. When trolling video-store blow-outs and flea markets, at times the only thing I can base a purchase on is eye-catching package design. Often this is a poor strategy, as a VHS tape itself can be more artistic and interesting than the film contained. It works both ways,certainly; some terrible cover designs have marred interesting films.

Not quite at either extreme, Blood Sisters is a very average 80’s slasher. Fans of the genre will enjoy it; the average viewer will probably get through the film without the aid of the fast-forward button. One thing about Blood Sisters which is exceptional, however, is the awesome, mind-blowing painted VHS cover. In the basement of Astro Video, during one of my many recent visits, Blood Sisters leapt of the shelf. As I was on a tight budget, I even ended up putting a film I had already grabbed back, so I could purchase this film. Featured prominently on the VHS case is an evocative young woman, gazing maniacally skyward, as her wild orange hair morphs into fire engulfing a Victorian mansion. A dark skyline frames her, and a wooden floorboard pattern emerges at the bottom, as a demonically possessed rocking horse rears to life. A grinning skull shoots beams of light out of its eye sockets in the center of the image, and the title, "Blood Sisters," sits in raised lettering in a streak of red paint.
The film itself is a trim haunted-house slasher at eighty-five minutes, full of the anticipated gore and nudity. The plot is rote: occultist sorority sisters camp out in a haunted bordello and get murdered. Simple. There are actually some creative and well-composed shots in the film, and the opening kill is a fully realized sequence, mostly shot in POV, Halloween-style. And despite Blood Sisters’ adherence to sexist genre conventions, is not particularly mean-spirited or nasty. Watch it with friends, especially if they can’t get enough of Prom Night knock-offs.
(I'll be looking for a cover image in the coming days and weeks)

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