Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

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“The power of Christ impales you” just might be one of the greatest tagline of all time. It tells you all you need to know. You’ve got Christ impaling vampires, a really bad pun and just a tinge of sacrilege. Do you really need to know more than that? Of course you do.

On the streets of modern-day Ottawa, Canada lurks an evil force kidnapping lesbians and turning them into vampires. The local priests decide to get involved and call upon Jesus (Phil Caracas). No, not any of that long distance prayer stuff, they book it to the nearest beach and meet Jesus Christ in the flesh. But this Jesus Christ is a bit different from the sandal-wearing bearded man from Sunday school. This Jesus sports tennis shoes, earrings and a crew cut. Being the man of love and compassion Jesus agrees to kick ass to save the lesbians from lesbian vampires. Or is he saving the lesbian vampires and the lesbians?

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The action is decidedly goofy in all its B-movie kung-fu glory. It’s in the vein of Adam West’s Batman with over-accentuated punches and kicks and ridiculously cartoonish sound effects. It suffers from being in the P.M.E. (Post Matrix Era for those of you who don’t keep time from the film’s release.) It goes a bit excessive with the slow motion and takes some of its choreography from the film. Throw in the obligatory fighter in a business suit and sunglasses and you’ve got yourself a Matrix homage. That being said the film does have some ambition and creativity with the way in which Jesus goes about dispatching these vampires and the bar sequence near the end of the film is brilliantly constructed, just executed with B-movie production values.

But it’s not just the action scenes that are over the top. The film has its share of overacting. Ivan Freud as the narrator gives the best performance as his bulging eyes and scraggly appearance make him a hilarious Mennonite characterture, preaching directly to the audience with Bible in hand. The other notable over-the-top performance is by Josh Grace as Dr. Praetorious, playing the crazed scientist stereotype with flair. The rest of the cast ranges between serviceable to horribly bad. A lot of the minor rolls seem to have been filled by random people who are not convincing to put it nicely.

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Luckily some of this bad acting feeds into the intentional comedy. There are a slew of jokes that range from the good, the bad and the sacrilegious. At its best the film is a clever play on religious moments such as when God speaks through a bowl of ice cream. The bad jokes tend to be corny, such as the numerous instances of a play on words. Jesus’ sidekick is Mary Magnum and he mistakes the exclamation of “Jesus” as an address to himself. The sacrilegious jokes are perhaps the funniest and most inappropriate such as when Jesus tries on a shirt with foul language or when Mary Magnum hits on Jesus. Most are cheap potshots but some seem to hint at something deeper.

The film had this great opportunity to explore the parallels of Jesus and vampires. There’s the obvious connotation of blood. For vampires it’s the life force and for Christians it’s the center of a holy sacrament. The idea of immortality is also another shared attribute. While the film acknowledges these connections it never fully develops them. It could have easily paralleled the sacrament of communion with the partaking of flesh and blood of a human being. Instead it’s more interested in another message.

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And this is a message of Christianity and lesbianism. Surprisingly, the film never portrays the church as hostile towards the lesbians; in fact, most of the lesbians being preyed upon are churchgoers. It seems odd since the film would be more that justified in portraying the church as hateful of lesbians, because, to a great extent, they are. But one of the core messages of the film is that we shouldn’t be passing judgment on people but should love them. It’s certainly one of Christ’s core teachings as he preached against the religiously judgmental men of his day.

But the film takes it a bit further by saying that Jesus would condone lesbianism (and possibly extramarital sex) because it’s an expression of love. It’s certainly one approach the more liberal churches of the world have but it’s rather bold and brash when the message comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ. One could write a whole theological paper on such an issue but I’ll let the viewers discern for themselves by viewing the film and looking back to Christ’s teachings if they are so inclined.

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But theological quagmires aside, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is a hilarious campy flick. The ridiculousness of the premise alone is amusing and in motion it delivers the kind of funny moments you’d expect. Throw in some good and bad dialogue and a number of funny performances and you’ve got yourself a flick. There are enough creative ideas here to keep this from being a film that fully relies on the value of camp but camp certainly is a deciding factor in your enjoyment of the film. The power of Christ impales you to see this film—unless you ascribed to Arminianism.

© 2009 James Blake Ewing

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter [Blu-ray]